Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ten things you can tell a story about

I regularly get one of two responses when I tell people I'm a storyteller. They either say, "You're a what? So you read to kids?" Or they say, "Cool! I could never do that."

To the first response I take a deep breath, smile and explain that, while reading to kids is great and important, I tell stories, mostly to grown-ups. The conversation can go in many different directions from there and, if I'm lucky, it leads to a really good discussion. It often does.

It's the second response that I love, because it gives me a chance to do a magic trick. Everyone is a storyteller; if you've read this blog before you already know that. You may not be a performing artist, you may never stand on a stage nor have any desire to, but we all tell stories. It's a crucial part of how people understand their lives and connect with others. The magic trick is helping someone see that the everyday communication they already engage in is really storytelling and how, if they wanted, they could expand on it and tell a more polished story.

All I do is this:
  • I talk about storytelling as part of every day life
  • Then I let the conversation move onto something else
  • Within a few minutes I ask them a leading question and I listen to their response. I let them tell me a story. I listen with interest and maybe ask another question or two
  • And then I thank them for telling me their story, mentioning something I enjoyed about the story.
At which point they realize it's a trick. Some people get embarrassed, but just about everyone is pleased. They did it. They told a story. They didn't die. Maybe next time it will be easier.

So what can you tell a story about, even if you don't think of yourself as a storyteller? Here are some suggestions for stories; these are all topics that can take a moment or an hour, none are the be-all and end-all of storytelling, nor is this list comprehensive.
  • What was your best birthday ever?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up? Why? If that didn't happen, what would life be like if it had?
  • A time when you misheard something and what happened
  • How was your drive today? How about yesterday? Anything interesting along the way?
  • If you could have a superpower, what would it be? What are the implications of having a superpower?
  • What's the farthest you've been from home?
  • What could you give up? What couldn't you?
  • What was your first car?
  • Who is your hero? If you don't have one, make one up.
  • What makes you happy?
I'd love to know what other topics you find useful, both as a teller and listener. Remember, the trick is that you are genuinely interested in what you're telling, so it must appeal to a broad audience and you must be interested in it. I don't generally recommend talking about the esoteric details of your job to someone you just met at a cocktail party (Unless they ask, of course). Please bear in mind, you could use these as writing prompts, but I'd urge you to take one of these and tell someone a story about it. See what happens when the words come from your mouth instead of your fingers. Have fun. Let me know how it turns out!

(c)2009 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

No comments:

Post a Comment

True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails