Tuesday, 18 September 2007

What is this storytelling thing, anyways?

We are all storytellers. Whether we’re retelling our shoe shopping escapade or our journey up the tallest hill in the area, we’re telling a story and, therefore, are storytellers.

Now, when I say I’m a storyteller, I mean that not only do I regale my friends with stories of why I chose to buy socks with angel pigs instead of devil cows (I dislike bad meat), I also enjoy telling a set tale, preferably before an audience (for some tellers, that involves singing or a musical instrument - think bard).

I mean telling, not reading. It’s a performance, not a static display. Storytellers like making eye contact with their audience, making sure their tale is riveting and that tears turn the eyes to glass when love interests meet an unfortunate end.

Storytellers tell many different types of stories – from traditional folktales and fairy stories to myths and legends, as well as more modern tales. Some storytellers can tell you the entire Incredible Journey in a few hours, and believe me; they’ll keep you riveted.

Other tellers, like myself, prefer doing original tales or adaptations, such as modernizing fairy tales. Not every heroine needs to be in distress, and why can gods of myths of old not enjoy a drink in today’s pubs?

Storytelling, particularly telling tales inked by my pen, gives me the instant gratification writing doesn’t. Let’s face it - it takes years for most writers to find a publisher interested in their work, and then maybe another couple of years before the book hits the shelves, to perhaps less-than-popular acclaim.

But in storytelling, you get feedback from your audience right away. You can see it in their eyes, in their body language, in their blue-tinged lips when they hold their breath; you can tell right away whether or not you’ve touched them the way you meant to. Or when you completely and utterly missed your shot, and fear you will never have an audience again. Thankfully most people are forgiving of a performer.

While telling, you can really get a feel for the pacing of your story, of the threads that tie it all together, and of the flow of the language. And with each telling the story is refined, in the same way a manuscript is made to shine during edits. In fact, storytelling has given me quite a few ideas on how to edit my manuscripts and make the language flow and scorch like lava.

So if you hear of a storytelling event in your area, go check it out and be ready to be transported to worlds near and far away. It is a tightly woven spell that tellers mean to cast.

I hope its charms will work on you.