The Fine Art of Story Telling from Allbooks Review

Lately I have found myself contemplating the fine art of storytelling. Some people are wonderful at it and others just want to make you yawn. The idea of storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images, sounds and embellishments. It is a way to express the emotional power of information. Robert McKee, in his book, Story, says “Stories are equipment for living.” In fact, when a story is told well, the listener is transported on a journey to a new place.
According to John Gardner, “Like other kinds of intelligence, the storyteller is partly natural, partly trained. It is composed of several qualities, most of which, in normal people, are signs of either immaturity or incivility: wit (a tendency to make irreverent connections); obstinacy and a tendency toward churlishness (a refusal to believe what all sensible people know is true); childishness (an apparent lack of mental focus and serious life purpose, a fondness for daydreaming and telling pointless lies, a lack of proper respect, mischievousness, an unseemly propensity for crying over nothing); a marked tendency toward oral or anal fixation or both (the oral manifested by excessive eating, drinking, smoking, and chattering; the anal by nervous cleanliness and neatness coupled with a weird fascination with dirty jokes); remarkable powers of eidetic recall, or visual memory (a usual feature of early adolescence and mental retardation); a strange admixture of shameless playfulness and embarrassing earnestness, the latter often heightened by irrationally intense feelings for or against religion; patience like a cat’s; a criminal streak of cunning; psychological instability; recklessness, impulsiveness, and improvidence; and finally, an inexplicable and incurable addiction to stories, written or oral, bad or good. Not all writers have exactly these same virtues, of course. Occasionally one finds one who is not abnormally improvident.”
The holiday season is a good time to share stories amongst friends and family. Some people are better at verbal storytelling, while others, like myself, prefer to revert to the written word. Many of our preferences and comfort zones reflect back to the patterns of our childhoods. As an only child of working parents, I spent a lot of time reading and writing in my journal. My parents were first generation immigrants and worked very long hours to provide food for our table. Dinners were often rushed with a minimum amount of storytelling unless we had a visitor who probed us. As a result, I was raised with books and paper, but gravitated to friends who were good storytellers because my situation made me a good listener. Things haven’t changed. I am who I am.
Lately, I’ve become good friends with a few great storytellers and I have been captivated, mesmerized and curious about what it is that’s missing for me to tell a good story. I have also done some reading to improve my own verbal storytelling (my family often tells me, I neglect to build up the tension and/or I omit the punch line). Heading into my sixth decade, I plan to improve this. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
– Before telling your story, you need to know it well and/or memorize it
– Vary the pitch in your voice when telling a story
– Make sure your facial expressions coincide with the story’s mood
– Make sure the sequence of events is correct
– Build up to the story’s climax
– When finished do not go on to another story
– Practice storytelling in front of a mirror
One thing I also read was the importance of putting on a “story hat.” In other words, just before you are to tell a story, put on your story hat which gets you in the mood to tell your story. It is a way to take your mind off your audience, particularly if you are on the shy side.
If you are curious about some more tips in this area, I suggest you check out a great you-tube on the subject, called, “Storytelling: Theory and Practice.”

Diana Raab, author


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