We all love stories – in books, at our children’s bedtime, on TV – and that’s why soap operas and crime dramas are so popular. And we like telling stories – whenever we relate an incident or report on a situation, we make it into a narrative. That doesn’t mean we’re telling lies, but we structure our account for best effect and use many storytelling techniques, often unconsciously, to entertain and inform our listeners.
In the not-so-distant past people told stories around the fire to wile away a winter’s evening, and a good storyteller was valued in the family and the community. Nowadays, our stories tend to be much shorter, and more naturalistic, but there are still plenty of them, and we can group many of them into categories.
‘Local legends’ are often about a place, landmark or building and commonly explain how something got its shape or name. Some of these feature the Devil, or a local beast such as a dragon and are not meant to be taken literally, but many are told as ‘true’ explanations.
‘Ghost stories’ are still very popular, and run the range from eminently
believable to downright strange, and ‘Contemporary legends’ (or ‘Urban myths’) feature unexpected or humorous things which happened to a ‘friend of a friend’ quite recently in the real world.
‘Memorates’ are what folklorists call personal experience narratives, and so on.
Tradition plays a big role in all this. Even if our story is brand new it will almost certainly use tried and tested techniques, re-cycle ideas, and feature motifs that we all recognise. That is why Sussex Traditions is interested in gathering your stories – old and new.