“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

This is a quote from Philip Pullman, an author. Stories are a huge part of communication. They encourage learning beyond the lifetime of an individual. They can be passed through generations.


A good story can be remembered, there is no need to go back and read it, it can be passed by word of mouth from person to person, spreading with it a message or a viewpoint.  If you can tell a good story while remaining accurate a message can be communicated so easily.

‘Don’t be Such a Scientist- talking substance in a age of style’ is a book written by Richard Olsen. There is a chapter dedicated entirely to the art of storytelling, it is entitled ‘Don’t be Such a Poor Storyteller’. This chapter highlights the importance of scientists being good storytellers, but also being accurate storytellers.


A youtube clip on what the book involves is available: if you don’t have much time I would recommend sipping to 0.50!

Do you think people can ‘learn’ to be storytellers? I’m sceptical. I think you can learn certain aspects to being a good storyteller, but I think ‘the art of storytelling’ is not something that everyone can learn. On top of this, not every scientific discover is able to ‘become’ a story. To turn something like a journal article into a story requires creativity, do you think this is something achievable by every scientist out there?


Olsen, R. (2009) Don’t be such a scientist: Talking substance in a age of style. Washington: Island Press. Chapter 3 Don’t be such a poor storyteller pp. 104-118.

Image: ‘Old books I found in the living room’ Avsilable from: taken on: 19th September 2012

Tell me a story grandma?

By zoesimmons

6 comments on “Tell me a story grandma?

  1. In most cases people learn from experience. Storytelling can be an art of communication, but at the same time it can simply attained through daily exposure.
    However, as a scientist, yes I guess storytelling could be learnt just so that the skills of communicating the concept and the approach to the different audiences is framed successfully. Above all, the key message is disseminated with ease successfully too.

    • I completely agree, the ‘experience’ that stories provide can make them so much more memorable, and these can definitely be acquired throughout day to day life. I think storytelling can be taught but a lot of people lack the ability to tell an ‘amazing’ story. But you are right, the most important aspect of a story is that the key message comes across!

  2. Interesting post Zoe! As a storyteller, you are in the limelight and need to captivate your audience so I agree that this comes naturally to some more than others. I think you CAN learn to be a better storyteller though. Like Noelynn says, we learn from experience. Someone who has a natural storyteller in the family is likely to have picked up some tips on how to effectively deliver a punchline.

    Practise makes perfect and some may need to work harder than others to get better, but in my opinion they can still succeed.

  3. I completely agree, storytelling can both be a natural gift or a learned ability. but do you think the student could surpass the teacher? or the natural storyteller will always be better?

    To be honest, it probably depends on a lot of different things, mood, topic, audience and much more.

    Thanks for your comments 🙂

  4. I agree that a good story can be remembered, and would be passed on though the word of mouth. I do believe that some people are born with the gift of being great storytellers, as they have a natural ability to capture one’s attention by a unique way of expression. However, I think that the art of storytelling can always be learned and nurtured. It might take time and practice, but people can learn from these experiences.

    I agree that turning a scientific journal into a story is difficult and would require a lot of creativity for it to be interesting. However, it is achievable with practice. Life is about a journey, and the every journey would amount to different experiences. Everyone has a different story to tell.

  5. Storytelling might be time consuming and depends too much on how the story teller delivers the story, but it turns out for long-term memory, story telling is much more effective than just fact.
    But what I wonder is that if the we can remember what the story teller wants us to remember, or just keep something not important at all in mind. Will more information cause more distraction?

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