Wednesday, May 29, 2013

X is for... x the unknown

Alright, I know I'm cheating with this one, but anyone who loves junky 1950s sci-fi movies as much as I do wouldn't be able to resist. Besides, X the Unknown has real application to storytelling.

You've prepared for your gig. You've learned your stories, organized your set, researched your audience, had a light and sound check, you're ready to go. There will always be factors you can't control. Maybe you're telling at an outside venue and the weather changes. Maybe a little kid wanders up on the stage. Maybe there is a significant global event that changes the nature of the world, making some of your stories less than ideal. You don't know what will happen. All you can do is adapt the best you can. Through in a story about how the rain is really the stars weeping. Incorporate a brave little kid into your story, then invite her parents to scoop her up. Acknowledge that the world is a difficult place and we need stories to help us through the dark.

The unknown is present in every performance. While some of it might be difficult (the weather, the kid, the world) you can also revel in it. The unknown might lead you to create a new and wonderful part of your tale. The story triangle means we collaborate with the unknown worlds inside of our listeners.

Solving for X lets us be more creative and grounded in the present instance. It encourages us to be flexible, to dance with the story, our audience and the very moment.

An anecdote, some observations about X.

The National Storytelling Telling Festival happens annually in Jonesborough, Tennessee. It's a wonderful event with some amazing stories. The town itself is a lovely historical place with, among other things, a freight line running through the back. Anyone who tells at Jonesborough runs the risk of having a lengthy freight train become an overwhelming accompaniment to their story. It is a very large and loud X.

I've seen tellers break out of their story and into new tales about trains. Others whistle or tap in time with the rails. Still others simply wait, smiling. Those who try to overwhelm the train with their voice, continuing their story, are the tellers who get lost and risk losing their audiences. By embracing X, the train, flexible storytellers can build a greater relationship with their audience by overcoming the adversity of the freight roar, they gain the sympathy of the audience and they can, sometimes, inject a note of play and fun by dancing with the inevitable.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. This is so timely for me tonight Laura!

    I have been preparing for a conference tomorrow where I am the "closer" after a three day conference, right after lunch. Definitely not the sweet spot! But my stories are ready, my talk rehearsed, lovely quotes/slides at the ready, activities planned, I even have chocolate. Yet I know as much as my OCD self has tried to plan for everything, it will most likely not go as planned.

    Thanks for reminding me that while the devil may be in the details, the fun can be in the unexpected.



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