I grew up in a family of introverts so storytelling was not something I had a lot of experience with (ignoring, of course, those convoluted, highly improbable explanations about why whatever was broken, missing, spilled was someone else’s fault).
Things changed a bit as my siblings and I grew up and out of the tumultuous teen years and washed up on the shores of adulthood. While we were still professional introverts, a funny thing happened when we used to go back home for family gatherings:
The stories always seemed to involve the golf course or the lake and an amazing catch or an amusing comedy of errors. Whatever the subject, hilarity generally resulted. Even “remember when” stories, which I’m pretty sure we’d all have agreed were not at all amusing at the time, were rendered into comedy routines.
My brothers were the storytellers and I was impressed that they could take a simple (and frankly not that exciting) incident and turn it into something that would have us laughing our heads off.
Later, my father-in-law’s story-telling put theirs in the shade. Shaggy-dog stories were his specialty and he could drag them out so long you’d begin to fear you’d be long dead before he got to the end.
I found it baffling since I’ve always been more of a Dragnet – “just the facts, ma’am” – kind of person. It’s a skill that’s highly prized at my day job where condensing information down to the critical facts is something that few seem able to do. It’s not, however, a helpful skill for a writer, unless 100-word stories are your specialty.
While I can plot and plan and define beats and turning points, I seem to be missing that certain something that those family stories had that made them flow and be so entertaining. I may be a writer, but apparently I haven’t quite made it to “storyteller” yet.
Fortunately, I’m getting some help with that transition from, of all places, my day job.
Storytelling is part of an ongoing project to help us as individuals, clarify how the work we are doing ties into the company’s mission. Many folks groaned and rolled their eyes at the idea, but I’ve been in a number of meetings where managers have shared their stories and they’ve been both interesting and helpful in seeing how all our work ties together.
My own story started out unsurprisingly brief when I first developed it months ago, but I’ve noticed that each time I go through it there is more detail and depth. When I told the story just last week there were even some (intended) laughs and for the first time I felt like I might have a handle on storytelling after all.
Now I just figure out what I did with that story and then apply it to my current manuscript
Piece of cake, right?
So, are you a natural storyteller or is it a skill you’ve had to develop?