Old-Fashioned Storytelling 101
Old-Fashioned Storytelling 101 – A Guide
We have two focuses here at The Silver Petticoat Review. One, old-fashioned romance. And two, old-fashioned storytelling. In short, we describe it as “diverse traditional storytelling without the excess of explicit content and unsentimental cynicism.”
In other words, we’re looking to promote and bring back the love for what makes stories wonderful. And without all the excess of graphic sexuality, extreme violence, profanity, vulgarity, cynicism, and lack of emotion. We also aim to find stories from all over the world because every culture has stories worth sharing.
Below we include a detailed checklist and guide for old-fashioned storytelling in film, literature, theater, and television. As well as a checklist of what old-fashioned storytelling isn’t.
Beyond that, we include some examples to get you started in the world of old-fashioned storytelling. And then answer a few questions for clarification.
(There was inevitably some crossover with our Old-Fashioned Romance Guide.)
Old-Fashioned Storytelling Checklist – As Defined By Us:
This is not to say that every story has to include every one of these elements. Just that they should include some of these checkpoints.
- Written more like a Jane Austen, Dickens, or Charlotte Bronte novel than a bodice ripper. (Now we know it’s rare to find this kind of artistic skill, but the idea remains!)
- Explores the beauty of language. These are Gilmore Girls-esque and not like an HBO special.
- Idealism, Romanticism, Realism, etc. are all acceptable. It’s not the “type” of story but rather how it is presented.
- While realism is acceptable and even appreciated when relevant, the inclusion of excessive profanity, violence, and explicit sexuality is typically absent.
- Written or Directed with an understanding of traditional storytelling. We’re looking for good storytellers.
- Humor uses wit and/or intelligent physical comedy rather than crudeness or making fun of others.
- Witty and/or intelligent dialogue
- Ignites the imagination
- Lacks vulgarity
- Three-dimensional characters who often go through some sort of change. All kinds of characters can be presented. We are not worried about stories being overly politically correct or modern. Rather, we worry more about the believability of a character. Usually, there is a thematic purpose behind why a character is the way they are.
- Focus on good characterization. Includes memorable protagonists and antagonists.
- Includes real emotion. A good story makes you feel something. From happiness to loneliness, hope, etc…
- May include archetypal elements of fairy tales, folklore, mythology, and/or oral storytelling
- A strong premise, plot, and hook
- Conflict that keeps the audience engaged without using unnecessary angst and/or annoying plot developments
- Elements of optimism; non-cynical in its storytelling approach
- Good often triumphs over evil in the end
- Embraces Happily Ever After
- Also embraces tragedy and good drama
- Has something to say about the human condition. Read the classics – even the so-called “romances.” They all have something to say. From Anne of Green Gables to Jane Eyre to Pride and Prejudice and more.
- Some element of truth. If a story doesn’t resonate with us, what is the point?
- Love stories should typically be old-fashioned in its approach. See our OLD-FASHIONED ROMANCE GUIDE 101 for a complete checklist.
It should be noted that while we love good, old-fashioned storytelling, we’ve put a modern twist on it. We celebrate and appreciate equality and diversity. What we’re looking for is good writing using elevated language to express the writer’s truth rather than crass and explicit contemporary realism. We strive to include content that has PG-13 “like” content or below, minus a few exceptions for artistic merit and/or genre interest. However, these exceptions are made very selectively and depend on the overall “feel” of the story. That said, just because something is PG or PG-13 doesn’t mean it is old-fashioned or that we automatically cover it.
What Old-Fashioned Storytelling Isn’t:
Stories don’t have to be perfectly old-fashioned for us to cover it. However, the stories should never be excessively explicit or vulgar.
- Explicit – Whether sexually or violently
- Includes unnecessary nudity in a non-artistic way
- Pornographic and/or promoting pornography
- Vulgar, Raunchy or Crude
- Laced with profanity
- Objectification of Women; steeped in rape culture
- Written with an antagonistic attitude toward romance, stories with hope, etc.
- Too cynical and unsentimental
- Lacking in human connection
- Overly contrived
- Focuses on pushing boundaries and the shock factor rather than on good storytelling
- Doesn’t stay true to the characters
- Includes flat, two-dimensional characters
- Unnecessary plot developments for the sake of needless angst
- Subverting genres (there are exceptions, of course, where this works – but it has become overdone and is often just an attempt to subvert good storytelling in general simply for the sake of being original)
- Doesn’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end
- Lacking in human truth
- Doesn’t have a thematic purpose; weak premise
- Doesn’t resonate with audience
- Lacks continuity
- Too focused on political correctness and paints people as stereotypes rather than as human beings; lacks empathy; (Storytelling shouldn’t be used as a device to judge others and divide cultures. Stories should bring people together and help us to understand our differences as well as our similarities.)
We should note, however, in relation to subverting genres that we are okay with breaking rules and being original. We also embrace genre mash-ups. What we’re not fans of is when writers purposefully try to undo archetypal truths in a cynical way. For example, taking the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and adapting it into a story where they don’t end up together in the end. In that way, they undo the whole meaning of the tale (IE: transformation). And who wants to watch or read that?
And then when it comes to genres, while mashups and originality are fantastic, there are specific genres where certain types of endings are expected. If you’re doing a romantic comedy, the two characters should “most of the time” end up together. Storytellers should know what type of story they are telling. Not all romances have happily ever after and that is fine but, again, storytellers should know their genre and/or genres. So while we’re okay with rule-breaking, we feel it should be done carefully. And not in a way that is simply meant to subvert genres a storyteller dislikes or doesn’t understand.
Additional Thoughts On Old-Fashioned Storytelling
Old-fashioned storytelling should have a “positive,” perhaps even a “light” quality to it. Even in the saddest, loneliest of stories with elements of darkness, there should still be characteristics of hope and/or a message about the choices of the characters. With a good tragedy, there is a purpose behind it. The story raises important questions about humanity and has significant artistic merit. However, it should not be presented in a way that includes explicit sexuality or excessive violence and profanity.
In all, old-fashioned storytelling is about endurance and hope. When we finish a book or a film or a show, we want to walk away feeling uplifted, moved, inspired in some way. Not leave feeling heavy and irritated. We believe in the goodness of humanity and believe that same goodness should be represented in stories. Basically, we seek after stories that are exemplary and lovely!
However, this does not mean we don’t embrace “dark” stories. Old-fashioned storytelling focuses more on “how” a story is told after all. Some of the most emotionally moving tales have dark, violent themes – though always with a clear thematic purpose. Or even some of the best literature of all time. But as long as the story is more implicit than explicit and is all about good storytelling, we’re interested. And, of course, as long as the story “mostly” fits into the checklist of Do’s and not the Don’ts.
Note: While we embrace all kinds of characters with numerous backgrounds and beliefs, we should be clear that we do not promote racism, bigotry, abuse, etc. When these type of characters are presented, these traits are ideally shown as a flaw. There is a difference between good storytelling with flawed characters and flat out propaganda that promotes negative behavior. However, we do believe in the transcendental power of stories and we embrace elements of transformation and redemption. That said, we are aware of cultural differences in stories and take that into account.
The Importance of Imagination
“Imagination cannot change reality, but it can change people, and those people can change the world.” – Scholar Who Walks the Night
Fairy tales, happily ever after endings, stories infused with hope, imagination, and optimism is often sneered at in today’s critical, cynical world. As a society, we often celebrate pornography, violence, rape as entertainment, shocking character deaths, stories so dark with no resolution, unlikable characters, lack of emotion, etc…as if the deeper we sink into the seedy parts of life and society, the more “artistic” it is.
Well, we are tired of the overabundance of these types of stories. In fact, old-fashioned romance and traditional storytelling are becoming harder and harder to find.
However, we believe there are many people out there like us who long for these types of stories to be more prevalent. And here at The Silver Petticoat Review, we embrace them, talk about them, and promote them. On a happy note, there are many fantastic stories out there just ready to be watched or read.
A great story, even if “unrealistic,” can change us, inspire us, and even make a difference. So, we celebrate the power of imagination and creativity.
A FEW EXAMPLES OF OLD-FASHIONED STORYTELLING IN LITERATURE
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
- Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- Possession by A.S. Byatt
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
- The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
- Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
- The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few examples!
A FEW EXAMPLES OF OLD-FASHIONED STORYTELLING IN MOVIES
- Finding Neverland
- Citizen Kane
- Lord of the Rings Trilogy
- Little Women (1994)
- Life is Beautiful
- Star Wars films
- The War
- It’s A Wonderful Life
- The Sound of Music
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
- Ben Hur
- The Princess Bride
- La Belle et La Bete
- An Ideal Husband
- The Big Sleep
- The Winslow Boy
- Amazing Grace
- Harry Potter films
- Return to Me
- The Chronicles of Narnia
A FEW EXAMPLES OF OLD-FASHIONED STORYTELLING IN TV SHOWS & MINISERIES
- Gilmore Girls
- Scarlet Heart: Ryeo
- The X- Files
- Doctor Who
- The Scholar Who Walks the Night
- Mr. Selfridge
- Monarch of the Glen
- Call the Midwife
- Lark Rise to Candleford
- Road to Avonlea
- Ugly Betty
- Boys Over Flowers
- Agent Carter
- The Indian Doctor
- Stranger Things
- Bleak House
- Emma (2009)
- Foyle’s War
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
What genres fit into old-fashioned storytelling?
Old-fashioned storytelling can be a part of just about every genre. From drama to comedy to mystery to romance to tragedy to fantasy, etc. Though our site focuses mostly on the categories found in our ABOUT.
What constitutes explicit content?
We like to think of it in the way of opposites. The opposite of explicit is implicit – meaning something is implied rather than shown or described. Explicit means something is graphically depicted without relying on imagination.
For example, someone steps into the tub to take a bath. We see head shots or leg shots rather than an entire nude person. It is implied they are nude but it was not explicitly shown.
Another example: Two characters kiss in a scene, and it becomes clear they are going to sleep together. However, the scene cuts before we “see” anything. In the next scene, we cut to the two characters lying next to each other in bed. That is implicit not explicit because it is implied they slept together. If it were explicit, we would have seen the actual scene of the two characters sleeping together.
And then beyond that, there are levels of “how” explicit a scene is.
On the other hand, while violence is necessary to some stories, one doesn’t need to become excessive in its depiction. IE: Purposely disturbing the audience with gore, explicit rape, etc…
With old-fashioned storytelling, sex and violence aim to be more implicit than explicit.
Is The Silver Petticoat Review a religious themed site?
No. While we look to promote less explicit/vulgar content, we are not a religious themed site inclusive to only one religion or perspective. We want to promote good storytelling and old-fashioned romance for every audience and for people of numerous backgrounds, religions, and cultures. We aim to have diversity.
However, that doesn’t mean we don’t include stories with religious themes. As long as the story includes old-fashioned romance and/or old-fashioned storytelling within our genres of interest, we’re open to covering it. Stories can come from all faiths and/or the lack thereof. Basically, we are on the lookout for good stories.
In all, we believe good storytelling unifies people rather than separates them. It’s through stories we can learn to understand each other and embrace our differences.
For more about what we cover on our site, see our ABOUT and our OLD-FASHIONED ROMANCE GUIDE 101 for answers to more questions! If you have any other questions about old-fashioned storytelling, please don’t hesitate to send us a message!