Let’s start with me telling you a story about me~ as the author says, people would rather hear what happened to you than someone else , as there is an “immediate and inherent vulnerability in hearing a story of someone standing in front of you.”
I was returning from school in my car after picking up my daughter, on my regular way which I take every day ~ going neither too fast nor too slow, preoccupied in my head with the humdrum of daily life , trying to get through life one day at a time, one road at a time. When from no where, a dead cat shows up, very out of place, lying quite dead in the middle of the road~ a place she is not suppose to be! We slow down, cars ahead of me change their course to avoid the obvious flesh and blood. I, no better, follow the crowd and do the same inhuman stuff we humans are so good at ~disregard any life form which is not as precious or valuable as ours. After all a dead cat should not come in the way of so many more important things we have scheduled in our daily lives. However as I swerved from my path, my eyes caught the car behind me, which instead of doing what the rest of us have been avoiding~ stoppes in the middle of the road. She got down, the women in black, with her dark glasses and her hair pulled back. I watched from my rear view mirror as she steppes out with a plastic bag, liftes the dead cat~ which folks like us had left to die~ places her gently on the side of the road. As the traffic moves on I see my perversity reflect back at me in the harsh afternoon sun. I saluted to the lady in black in my mind and went on driving.
The author points that when telling a story to an audience, you cannot tell it the same way you would be telling your friends at a dinner, but slightly more crafted version~however he stresses that we refrain from getting too melodramatic or poetic. To an audience you may sound unprepared or unrehearsed, but this is not true. One has to be prepared to tell them. So it’s more a skill which has to be worked on and made perfect, which Matthew Dicks has mastered as a storyteller ~ check out his YouTube channel “Storyworthy the Book”.
The Art Of Telling Stories
The art of storytelling is a skill which has to be mastered keeping your audience in mind . To keep your story compelling, there are certain rules which the author has come up with, which has served him well over the years at events such as Moth Story~Slam for a very good reason. The five different strategies to infuse a story to make it effective.
- The Elephant ~ Every story must have an elephant. It is basically a clear statement of the need, the want, the problem, the peril, or the mystery. It makes it clear to an audience that it’s a story and not a simple musing on a subject. Just like movies have trailers and summaries that you can read on websites like Rotten Tomatoes to inform you of the gist of the story. Storytellers don’t have a trailer, they need to give some preview to get the audience attention.
- Backpacks ~ This is a strategy that increases the stakes of the story by increasing the audience’s anticipation about a coming event . Its when a storyteller makes the audience wonder what would happen next.
- Breadcrumbs~They are little hints that the storyteller drops of some future event, but only revels enough to keep the audience guessing. The trick is to choose the breadcrumbs which creates the most wondering the mind of the audience .
- Hourglasses ~ This is like a climax in a movie scene; the crescendo in a musical piece. Its the time when the story reaches the moment the audience has been waiting for. The sentence the audience has been waiting to hear. The author advise is to slow things down. Grind it to a halt; drag out and wait as long as possible.
- Crystal Ball ~ It is a false prediction made by a storyteller to cause an audience to wonder if the prediction is true. We as humans are always trying to anticipate the future, so when telling stories, recounting those on~the~moment predictions is critical.
A story needs to have stakes. Using the above mentioned techniques will only work if your story has stakes. If your story is boring, the strategies will only get you so far.
Lessons for Life
I like the book at many levels. The thing about stories are that they are moments in time which we have all experienced which are unique and beautiful and crafted in a way that blossoms into a story worth sharing. These moments are all around us; every day we go through life missing them entirely. However Matthew Dicks points out that it does not have to be so. He calls it the “Homework for Life”.
He says that at the end of every day, “I’d reflect upon my day and ask myself one simple question: If I had to tell a story from today ~ a five minute story onstage about something that happened in the course of this day , what would it be?” So he writes down a sentence or two that captures his day on an excel sheet . This gives him a constant supply of all storyworthy topics he can present , but more than that I feel this technique helps you record all the meaningful memories that come in our mind, moments from the past that one has forgotten.
I don’t know if I will ever muster the courage to stand in front of an audience and pour out my heart but I do capture my day in my journal. Sometimes I see patterns in my life, some storyworthy stories which I share with my family . It is kind of therapeutic in a way, it stops us from rushing through life and take stock of things around us.
Quoting the author “We are the sum of our experience, the culmination of everything that has come before. “