Introduction to the Rhetoric of Story

What is the Rhetoric of Story?

This section contains a few important ideas to take away:

  • The course covers the seven basic elements of storytelling that comprise the “rhetoric of story”.
  • Storytelling has a very long history, new techniques are always being developed, but the basic elements of story remain the same.
  • Rhetoric is the art of persuasive communication. A rhetorical structure is any way of ordering words or images to make them communicate more powerfully.
  • The rhetoric of story works because it mirrors how we see the world, with our self at the centre, others we relate to, and conflicts that prevent us from reaching our goals.

EXERCISE

Make a list of the stories that have powerfully influenced your life. They can be of any kind. For instance, mine include novels like The King Must Die by Mary Renault, films like The Godfather, and the real life story of Nelson Mandela. These are the stories that you carry with you long after you experienced them.

Why are these stories powerful for you? What do they have in common?

READING

Aristotle’s Poetics is the earliest known work of dramatic theory. It contains many terms commonly used by writers to talk about story including mimesis, catharsis and hamartia.

Wikipedia provides a good summary and links to older translations free online.

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Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Director of creative writing at UoL, published with OUP and Cambridge. Currently travelling the world and writing a book.

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