What makes a story reach the level of greatness? What transforms the story from ordinary to memorable and makes it go viral? Is it the talent of the teller or the uniqueness of the story?
I have no idea. I’ll give you my thoughts on the subject, anyway.
I have made some observations as I have listened to others tell their stories. These subtleties elude many tellers of stories and often keep them both from reaching their full potential. I know a good story when I hear one.
I have outlined a few things that can tank an otherwise good story.
My family is full of storytellers. Let’s start with Grandpa Sanderson. He had thousands of stories that he liked to tell thousands of times. I can’t remember any of them, but most were about fishing or hunting…I think. What mattered in his case was his love of telling them. I don’t remember him ever saying, “Stop me if I’ve already told you this.”
I don’t like two people who both know the story to be present at the time of the telling. One will get to the interesting part and then stop the whole flow by saying something like this: “What was the name of that street? Was it Elm? No not Elm, but I think it started with an E. Or was it an S?” Then the other knower of the story will say, “It wasn’t a street, it was a culdesac.”
About that time I want to scream, “IT DOESN’T MATTER!” It usually has no value to the one who is listening, and you can be sure a few more sentences into it, the tellers will struggle with trying to remember another unimportant detail. It ruins the timing and therefore, the story. Remember that.
Go on. I’m listening
Mom’s stories were good no matter how many times she told them for two reasons. She never told it the same way twice and she always acted it out. She could mimic the way someone walked and the expression on their faces to a T, and her stories were always entertaining. It didn’t really matter if they weren’t entirely factual, you always wanted to believe they were true, because they were so good.
Humorous stories should be humorous to both the teller and the hearer. Don’t anticipate what’s ahead and start cracking up before you get to the funny part, storyteller. The funny part might not live up to the expectations you have unwittingly built up. It could fall flat, and you’ll be hard pressed to find an audience for your next tale.
Beware of the spoiler. The spoiler is the person who is reminded of a story they want to tell and can’t wait for you to finish so they talk over you. I once had someone tell me to be quiet please, because they were tired of talking over me. Can you imagine? The best thing you can do is stop telling. Do not waste a good story. It takes a tremendous amount of self-control (so I’m told), but if you don’t have the full attention of your audience, you won’t get the full effect. Or is that affect? On the other hand, if it’s the second or third time you have told the story, you can make the call. If the other storyteller is telling a better story, laugh (a little) and move on. If your story is better, it might be worth it to wait, laugh politely when he or she is finished, and tell your tale.
This goes without saying and I don’t want to talk down to you, but please…don’t tell a story if you don’t remember the punchline. And speaking of appropriateness, which we weren’t, consider what you are telling to whom. If you can’t adjust your stories to your audience then, sadly, you are not a storyteller, so take up some other hobby that doesn’t involve talking like painting or collecting water towers.
I think that’s enough for today. I don’t want to overwhelm us.
(Our granddaughter, Charlie, was here over the weekend and she is quite the storyteller. They never end. She tells them in three parts. Here she is telling Cyndie a story.)