We are all natural Storytellers

My daughter is of the Hogwarts’s generation, so naturally enough bought The Cursed Child. She sent a text to me one Saturday to say she had finished it and she was close to tears and desperately wrote ‘I want more stories’.

We all need stories – perhaps more than we need a place to live. American storyteller Reynolds Price wrote:

A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens – second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter (A Palpable God, 1978)

The human need for stories is a zillion dollar industry. Think books, TV, film, gaming, magazines, newspapers, and more. But, storytelling began as an oral tradition and we are all natural storytellers.

Think about the last time something happened to you and you just couldn’t wait to tell people about it. Here is a true story I like to tell.

Wayne and I were on our way to our friend’s birthday party. We stopped at a red light. The light turned green and Wayne went to accelerate, but then realised we had a red arrow. He braked and ‘bang’ the car behind us rammed into our backside.

At this point, most people gasp. They are ready for a tragic story. If I manage to wrangle into the telling that the car is driven by P platers perhaps they even expect some young hooligans.

I continue, the arrow goes green and we pull into a carpark. The other car pulls up beside us.  The first boy gets out of the car. He is wearing a blue tutu. The second boy gets out of the car.  He is wearing a pink tutu.

At this point, most people want to know why are they wearing tutus. The dull answer is that they are on their way to a fancy dress party. No doubt they will arrive at their party and tell the embarrassing story of running into someone’s back-end and having to get out of the car in their tutus.

My little anecdote has the structure of a story. I set the scene (driving to the party) build the tension (the red light and crash) and the climax, or point of the story, the boys in the tutus. If instead I said there was no damage to either car and we all went away (which is true) most people would think ho-hum and what was the point of that.

We all naturally recognise how a story works and that is why we can all tell a story. Some of us are better at it than others and many of those people never write a story in their lives. They are the people who hold the audience at parties. Wayne is one of those people. I have heard most of his stories more than once, and I have been there when many of them occurred. I hear them over and over and I hear how they grow and are embellished and sometimes I think, well it wasn’t quite like that. But the whole truth does not matter. What is important is what works for the audience.

The myths and fairy tales that began their lives as oral stories are still being retold in books and movies and on television. The stories change and the retellings are a reflection of the changing audience.

It is comforting to me that a thousand years ago the same stories I read now we’re being told by the best storyteller at the party.

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