Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Storytelling thoughts, 2 Nov 2015

I regularly participate in StorySwap, a monthly gathering of local storytellers at Northland Library, and have been attending regional events such as the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival for years. It's a wonderful art form, often overlooked in the daily deluge of electrons and photons vying for our attention. My whole family has been in on this, too, having told stories onstage or written material for others to perform. Many local tellers know us. All of this is good.

When I go to the monthly meetings, I often feel like a square peg in a round hole, though. There is a rhythm to the types of stories at these events, but there are other rhythms that can be played at a storytelling concert as well, just as there are many different styles of music you might hear at a musical concert. StorySwap is different from The Moth which are both different from TED talks which are all different from the type of story you might develop from the Toastmasters storytelling manual. You will hear a sax solo at a jazz or rock concert, less likely at a symphony concert. There's nothing wrong with sax solos or saxophones in general, nor with certain styles of oral storytelling.

My own style is to work from historical accuracy rather than a fictional or folk tale. Sometimes it's something I experienced myself, or an event that happened within my own memory. Sometimes I am working from an event long ago or far away, but typically holding to the facts. There's nothing wrong with this, or with doing the opposite. I would use my craft to guide others to interpret historical events differently, and to look at current events in a different light based on what may have been passed over in the past. Just one example: Most people have heard of Paul Revere's 1775 ride through the countryside, but fewer know about Sybil Ludington, who rode farther, and did a better job. Those stories need a teller, and I would be that teller, if I could.

A week or so ago, I had the idea for a story and started to write some notes outlining how to approach it. Last night, despite the absence of either rehearsal or polish, I told it. Rough as it was, it definitely had the effect I wanted, as the tone of conversation shifted along the lines of where I was going with the tale. I wanted to get people wistful. But it wasn't a fable, and while fables are what experienced StorySwap tellers do best, and what works best at such meetings, I am not a fable-teller. I have no plans to become one, any more than I want to become a jazz saxophonist.

I did get some good tips for how to structure a story better. That's really useful. I should take that, work with my prior notes, and develop a more cohesive tale. Toastmasters meetings also give me a great opportunity to practice in front of a live audience, with constructive feedback. I think I need both arenas. Fables are great, but it's the ability to craft a story that matters more than the ability to fit a style.

My goal is to get good enough at this to be invited onstage at one of these events and do well. I have the stories, and I think my aims for the audience are good, too. I just need to practice.

1 comment:

  1. I go to StorySwap to learn how to tell stories well, but not to tell the same type of stories others are telling.