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Storytelling tricks: connotation

Posted in Reading, Storytelling by Alex L. on March 9, 2009

How does a good storyteller narrate a tale? One of a storyteller’s rhetorical tricks, I have noticed, is keeping in mind the connotation of what he is saying or writing. That is, he adds to his narrative phrases that stimulate the imagination and suggest another way of seeing things, though such phrases may not add any new information to the story. A good example I found in Stephen O’Shea’s Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World:

“The freed warrior was past thirty, already a ripening age for an ax-man with countries to cleave. Henceforth Karl Martiaux – Charles Martel – would forge a kingdom that covered much of present-day France, western Germany, and the Low Countries. Martel – the name comes from Martin, not marteau (hammer) – embarked on an unrelenting itinerary of violence, forcibly bringing the eastern and western Franks to heel” (62; emphasis added).

The artful passage speaks for itself, but I’ll dissect it anyway. O’Shea adds the parenthetical phrase about Martel’s name to slily suggest that Martel was indeed very hammer-like, even though the literal meaning of the excerpt looks as if O’Shea is trying to dispel this etymology. The reader gains nothing from the author’s tricky penmanship other than a more vivid and enticing portrait of Martel, his character.

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