Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Telling Life: The things that scare us

It's that time of year again, when the air grows crisp (at least in the Northern hemisphere) and storytellers everywhere celebrate the arrival of Halloween, when most of us have gigs aplenty. This is the season for scary stories, after all.

I love October and Halloween. When I was a child the double whammy of costumes, candy and my birthday (which falls toward the end of the month) was enough to make me giddy. Now it's the crispness in the air, the long shadows of an autumn evening, the firework leaves. And yes, my birthday still plays a part in how much I love the season.

Halloween, as you well know, is not just a celebration of kids in cute costumes and the candy industry. It's traditionally a time when the boundaries between the worlds are at their thinnest, a time when things from the other side can more easily reach through. Whether these things are to be feared or not depends on your own particular relationship with death, the afterlife and the otherworldly.

Personally, I love the suggestion that those I love who have died might be able to more easily reach out and say hello. I set out gifts and snacks for them on Halloween night (along with the candy I give to the creatures who ring my doorbell). But I can't escape the darker aspects of the season, the sense of the other that might be lurking around the corner. This time of year gives me a chance to look at what frightens me, to ask why and maybe even embrace it. If I'm to tell effective scary stories I need to be willing to look into the dark. This is part of the storyteller's job, after all, to look into the shadows and let the audience glimpse what might lie beyond, but from the safety of their seats. (There is a whole other discussion here about making sure your scary stories are appropriate to the listeners. For this piece, I'm assuming you really do want to give them a chill.)

Part of the storyteller's work is asking not only what will scare the audience, but what might scare us. This is a more focused version of our work across the board - we need to understand why a particular story calls to us as we call to the audience.

So what scares you? What kinds of stories might you tell that you find chilling and why? If you love the stories you tell and understand why you can't help but tell them more effectively. If you get a shiver from a tale you are much more likely to be able to share that with your audience.

Settle in. Dim the lights. Close your eyes and let your hackles rise as something... anything... reaches out from the dark. Reaching for you.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Evil that can't be reasoned with scares me. I've yet to figure out how to embrace it.


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