Stories Cannot Be Contained

Vintage 1950s Tupperware party

I love Tig Notaro. She is a fantastic comedian and storyteller. She recently tweeted:

“never been to the container store bc unfortunately i cannot be contained”

Stories are like that. For better or worse, stories will not be pushed down, sandwiched in, or contained.

Nonetheless, sometimes this whole area of storytelling gets a little unwieldy for me so I’m going to break it down, a little, into containers. Storytelling Tupperware Party!

You have essentially two camps of storytellers with a lot of overlap – the ones who are the keepers of lore/historians/traditional storytellers and the ones who are more like the entertainers/comedians/revivalist storytellers.

There are many names for both types of storytellers. For example, the raconteur is usually more concerned with what happened yesterday while the griot is concerned with stories that happened hundreds of years ago.

Take the Irish/Gaelic storyteller example. “Seanache” as an Irish word for a storyteller. This is almost and approximately correct. But actually, the simplest word in Irish Gaelic for “a storyteller” is “scéalaí” – derived from the word “scéal”, which is a story. Meanwhile, the word “seanchaí” means a historian, custodian of tradition, reciter of ancient lore, or traditional storyteller. So it may be misleading to say that “seanchaí” means simply “storyteller”, just as it would be confusing to tell a Spanish speaker that the words “historian” and “folklorist” are just more words for a storyteller (excerpted from

And then there is the art of storytelling itself, where you essentially have three modes: visual, oral, and written.

Visual storytelling examples: film, photojournalism, visual metaphors (the above photo is an example – this blog post is not about Tupperware…or is it?), augmented storytelling, interactive storytelling, virtual reality storytelling, etc.

Oral storytelling examples: comedians, people who curate This American Life, the storytellers from The Moth, corporate leaders using applied storytelling to persuade and create change, etc.

Written storytelling examples: books, narrative blogs, memoirs, scripts, graphic novels, comic books, etc.

I could go on forever with examples, because stories will never really fit into color-coordinated, little, BPA-free boxes.


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