Storytelling in the 21st Century

Author Libbie Grant – aka Olivia Hawker – is a phenomenal writer whose productivity is amazing. In her presentation at the 2023 HNSNA – Historical Novel Society North America – conference that took place in June, Libbie explored a range of new tools available to authors.

Libbie began with some provocative questions.

  • When did the book begin to die? Her answer: with the advent of photography, in other words a new technology to tell stories.
  • What is a written language? Libbie’s answer: a tool and a technology, a method and a process to transmit an idea from one to another.
  • Will writers of books go extinct? Libbie’s answer: storytellers will not go extinct, BUT people are obtaining stories from other and newer technologies than books.

Technology continues to change and to add complexity to our lives and to storytelling. However, the utility of story has not changed even as technology has changed.

Taken together, storytellers are no longer limited to the publishing industry model as a way to get your stories out. Indeed, there are multiple ways to get our stories into the hands of those who want to experience them.

First up on Libbie’s list of new technologies for storytellers is Patreon. What is Patreon?

According to Forbes Advisor, “Patreon is a subscription-based platform that connects content creators with either existing fans or those looking for creative projects to support.” There are currently more than 200,000 active Patreon accounts and millions of patrons who support these members.

While ad revenue earnings come from views and clicks, Patreon creators receive payment based on direct engagement. The site lets you incentivize patrons to take an active interest in your creations. For example, offering exclusive access to art not seen outside your Patreon account.

Libbie believes Patreon is a great way to get stories to your readers and urged us all to check it out.

Next up is Podcasts. In today’s world, audio content is huge. With its low bar to entry and with a limited number of storytellers using podcasting, Libbie believes authors should be using this mechanism to get content out and reach readers or maybe we should call them ‘story listeners’? Further, it’s easy to monetize a podcast by using ads.

You can also consider dramatized podcasts with multiple voice actors and sound effects – doesn’t that sound like old-style radio broadcasting of stories? Only a few authors are podcasting their novels today.

What other technologies did Libbie mention?

  • using short films on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube since almost no one is using these tools for novels
  • According to TechCrunch, “Dorians no-code interactive storytelling app turns fiction writers into game developers.” One caution, user demographics skew to the younger crowd.
  • WebNovels – use sites like Substack and Medium to monetize your novels via subscriptions.

Libbie cautioned the audience that it’s important to think about what is your brand and who is your audience as you consider these and other new technologies.

At the end of her presentation, Libbie spoke briefly about AI. She has used ChatGPT in particular to help with her research process and said that it can save a huge amount of time.

I think I need to stop thinking of myself as a writer and start thinking of myself as a storyteller!


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website

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Meet M.K.Tod

Meet M.K.Tod

The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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7 Responses

    1. You’re so welcome, Rae. You can use the search feature to explore by topic or click on one of the topic areas displayed on the home page. I hope all is well!!

  1. Chat GPT for research seems risky to me, as it’s notorious for plausible-sounding false positives. I’ve seen it both in my students’ work (a term paper about characters that weren’t in the novel, in situations that didn’t take place, with accurate looking footnotes to pages where those quotes did not appear) and in a bibliography someone in one of my academic groups created with Chat. It incorporated real scholars and real journals, but with completely made up articles. Several of the cited scholars were in the group and were equal parts amused and alarmed.

    1. Thanks for adding your experience and perspective, Catherine. I have to confess that I haven’t used ChatGPT yet and frankly I’m not sure that I want to dip my toe in that particular water!

  2. Interesting stuff. The word of caution re, the younger demographics is worth keeping in mind, I’m sure. Thanks, Mary.

    1. Thanks, David. I’m currently writing something that I hope will appeal to a younger audience – 30s and up. But I want to experiment a bit with alternatives – if/when I do, I’ll post about it!

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