Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stories and Cocktails: "Is Storytelling Always Like....This?"

The Woman stopped the Storyteller on his way out of the main room.

"Is the storytelling always like…this?" The Woman asked, wrinkling up her face in a type of "smells bad" nose-pose and pointing to the front of the room where the Slam had just earlier finished that evening.

"What do you mean?" asked the Storyteller.

"Well, these stories don't sound like things you would hear, you know, if you were out with friends having cocktails and sharing stories. I think that is the best storytelling." she replied.

He answered, "Everybody has their favorite type of storytelling. As well, there's a big difference between telling stories on a stage in front of strangers you don't know and telling intimate stories over drinks with a few good friends."

"Like how?" inquired The Woman.

"If you are out with friends," he answered, "then you are dealing with an audience that you understand well, I hope. You might be freer with descriptions, glossing over the parts you already know that they would know and spending more time on the parts that would be of interest to them. When you tell 'cold' on a stage with a group you just don't know, you have to be more responsive to how they react and be able to make lightning-fast changes to your delivery."

"I don't see how it would make a difference," she responded, "I mean you get your story ready and then you just tell it."

The Storyteller shook his head in disagreement. "As a storyteller, I never 'get my story ready' and put it into a singular form. Every time I am with an audience, three parts of the experience are constantly changing. The storyteller, the audience and the story are involved. If I have memorized how to tell my story, then really I am just acting."

"I never thought of that," she said as the nose-pose she had been holding softened.

"In fact," added The Storyteller, "we might have seen some of that tonight. Most of the storytelling was pretty good. But, we had storytellers who are so used to telling their story 'one way' that it didn't work here tonight with a much more casual crowd and distracting atmosphere. Then, we had people telling to a room of 70 people as if we were all across a nightclub table from them, talking too fast and dropping their sentences. Too uptight or too casual are both signs that the storyteller is not reading the audience."

The Woman thought a bit as sparkles of recognition danced across her forehead. "So, a storyteller has to be able to 'go with the flow' and be ready for audiences that might be stuffy or an audience of friends who are going to be silly. It's not all the same all the time."

"Yes," he laughed, "a good storyteller is constantly adjusting their telling as they tell."

"I think I will have to learn more," replied The Woman as she shook hands with the Storyteller, waved and walked away.

"Hmm, I think we just wrote my next online post" the Storyteller thought to himself as he walked on, looking for where the rest of his car companions had gone.

Photo courtesy of The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

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