Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Every Word Is Not A Story

I've been engaging in a fun (friendly, non-flame) conversation with big-thinker Trey Pennington over on his blog. He related an incident where his daughter used good negotiation skills to convince Trey to put some items on her Christmas 2011 list. In May of 2011.

His blog and comments are a good read and you can find his blog here. He believes that his daughter used a "story" to convince him of how reasonable her request was. In the comments section I noted that while she did use great negotiation techniques, she didn't use story.

In friendly disagreement, Trey's response, among other comments, was to state the definition of story: "What the tool looks like, feels like, behaves like, might very well be different depending on the hand that holds it."

I've responded:

I'm not nearly as much of purist as some believe, but if it's "everybody into the pool" then those who deny it's water are going to drown.

So, the answer is, paraphrased, "(Story) is whatever you want it to be?"


You'll have to excuse my lack of PhD in trying to explain this, but I will do my best with my tiny storyteller brain. (LOL)

If I call you about your car you have for sale, I know that a "car" means at least four wheels and some type of enclosure where passengers sit.

You assure me that you have a 2001 car for sale and I should come take a look at it.

When I get to your house, sitting in your garage is a 2001 Motorcycle. I am not happy as you've wasted my time.

"But," you say, "isn't the truth of what car is really in the hands that hold it? Silly Sean, you're such a purist. You should be completely happy with this two-wheeled, open air contraption. After all, I think it's a car. Look, over there in the corner is a car that has two wheels and you use your feet to pedal it. I will even throw in the bell on the handlebars at no extra cost."

::Insert giggle here::

My clients would be pretty sad if they booked me to teach them story, storytelling and public speaking only to have me arrive at their doorstep and say, "So, what do you think story is? Here, let's paint the side of your building with this geometric design."

Story has form and substance: a narrative with a beginning, middle and an end.

By the way, please note that I am not defining "storytelling" here. Storytelling uses story but they are not the same thing, just as fertilizer isn't the same thing as the shovel used to move it.

Photo Credit to Fotolia.com.The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.


  1. Sean, I am catching up with your blog. I read Trey's post and I agree with you. His daughter did not tell a story. She cleverly framed a request so that she would get part of what she wanted. If she had narrated events that showed how these things would benefit her, that would be a story.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I agree. A request is not a story. I have really dug deeper into this in my latest book. Stories are stories- but I think this battle may be temporarily lost. :-)