The Value of Stories: A workshop with Jose Paniagua

On the 7th February we had the pleasure of welcoming Jose Paniagua, professional storywriter and storyteller, to run a workshop for us on the value of stories.


What we often fail to remember is that we tell stories all the time. Recalling your day for a partner, speaking with friends about a recent holiday or what you did over the weekend. Asking the group to write one word they would associate with stories (responses included adventure, fantasy, inspiration and message) reminded us a that a story is many things.


Jose explaining to the workshop the different type of stories
Jose explaining to the workshop the different type of stories

But in general stories, in particular fairytales, are created with the same basic ingredients. Vladimir Propp found 31 functions of a fairytale, that he termed the Morphology of the Folktale. Your hero leaves the on a journey, encounters a hard-ship or a villain, villain tries and fails to interdict hero reaching his goal and so on and although not all 31 functions are necessarily present in a story, they always follow in numerical order. Or fantastic binomial (example here) by Gianni Rodari, whereby you pick two unrelated words or things and create a story from that. Another one we explored ourselves was ‘Cards of Fantasy’. We all thought of a character, object or place beginning with each letter of our name. Bringing these seemingly un-related things together, we all managed to write a short story in just 20 minutes!

an example of the 'Chrissie' short story
an example of the ‚Chrissie‘ short story

Other types of stories we learnt about were accumulation stories (‘The House that Jack Built is a classic example of this) that are really popular with younger readers and circular stories, were the story always returns to the initial situation.

We also learnt about the intrinsic value of stories. They often have implicit values such as team-work, solidarity or tolerance. Some of the values we thought might come

leonardo hard at work on his short story
leonardo hard at work on his short story

into our stories for this particular project would be ecology or conservation. Jose brought a bag full of books that we could look through for good examples of these methods in practice.The workshop gave us a lot to think about and Jose taught us some great ways to get story writing. Lets get writing!

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