The Future of Storytelling

By Bidisha on January 16, 2019 in Articles

We are living through a super-age of storytelling. Films and TV series, all available to watching online with the tap of a finger, are being produced and released with such proliferation that we don’t have enough hours to watch them all. That should be great news, shouldn’t it? All those characters, plots, unexpected arcs, action scenes and clever dialogue?

But – whisper it – what about books? The digital revolution has ushered in an extraordinary raft of changes to the way we live, create and entertain ourselves. Everything pours out through a single screen. At the same time, we know that the readership for literary fiction has declined sharply. Even I’ve moved on to directing, writing and acting in films, with my debut An Impossible Poison premiering in London in 2018. And you can add that to living in political times where what you read in the newspaper is often far more dramatic and unexpected than any thriller.

I don’t think novels will be the pre-eminent form of art, communication, reflection and entertainment in the future and I don’t think they ever were. There were always competing art forms and competing literary disciplines. In the future, books will be in a symbiotic relationship with other storytelling forms: they will inspire, and be inspired by, prestigious film and TV productions. Writers will move across these forms, adapting them in one direction or another. Scripts will blossom out of manuscripts and vice versa.

I have no doubt that the fundamentals of storytelling, and our desire for stories, will never change. We all want to see our world, our thoughts and our emotional experiences reflected back at us. We all want to discover the world through stories, be taken on a journey and walk in a character’s shoes. During a troubled time of dramatic change in the outer world, we need the escape and empathy of stories more than ever – however they’re presented to us.

Bidisha is a British writer, film-maker and broadcaster/presenter for BBC TV and radio, Channel 4 news and Sky News and is a trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation, looking after the UK’s most prestigious prizes for literature in English and in translation. Her fifth book, Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices of London, is based on her outreach work with asylum seekers and refugees. She is also the author of two novels, Seahorses(1997) and Too Fast to Live (2000), the reportage Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestine (2012) and the travelogue Venetian Masters: Under the Skin of the City of Love (2008). She is currently Wasafiri’s Writer in Residence.