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How good a story teller are you?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by modelmaker, Feb 27, 2012.

  1. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    I was listening to the radio today when a mention of Shahrazade from the Arabian Nights came up. Shahrazade, to remind you, was the wife of a king who was notorious for marrying virgins, sleeping with them then murdering them the next day so they wouldn't betray him. To avoid this fate, her plan was to entertain the king with an engaging story but not finish it. The king allowed her to live another night to discover how the story ended, but after she told him, she would begin another and so managed to escape death.
    It set me thinking about what the ingredients are that make a mundane story engaging when told by a master story teller.
    Any thoughts?
     
  2. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    I was listening to the radio today when a mention of Shahrazade from the Arabian Nights came up. Shahrazade, to remind you, was the wife of a king who was notorious for marrying virgins, sleeping with them then murdering them the next day so they wouldn't betray him. To avoid this fate, her plan was to entertain the king with an engaging story but not finish it. The king allowed her to live another night to discover how the story ended, but after she told him, she would begin another and so managed to escape death.
    It set me thinking about what the ingredients are that make a mundane story engaging when told by a master story teller.
    Any thoughts?
     
  3. I'll tell you tomorrow.
     
  4. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    My old landlord (RIP), with whom a few friends and I shared a house around 10 years ago, was a wonderful storyteller.
    A favourite time was the house Christmas meal, where plied with a lot of booze, he would tell stories into the early hours. Many of them we're heard many times, but no matter - it was the joy of hearing a master storyteller keeping his audience rapt for hours on end. His stories were ostensibly all true, but the finer details were undoubtedly 'enhanced' or possibly made up entirely.
    I'd say some of the key elements that make up a good storyteller are:
    - Smooth, instant recall. Nothing more frustrating than a storyteller becoming stuck, changing tack or changing their mind halfway through a story.
    - A voice that is a pleasure to listen to.
    - Eloquence without verbosity.
    - A tremendous sense of timing (knowing when silence is as powerful as the filling of it).
    - The ability to embellish extravagantly upon command.

     
  5. Har har whacko! [​IMG]
    I used to love making up stories for my children when they were younger. Some of the stories became 'serials' and I had to invent new adventures for the characters as the weeks and months and years went by. Happy days....
    I also used to love reading the chosen novel (ones in the syllabus) to my bottom set Yr 7s and 8s if I had them on Friday afternoon..or last lesson in the week. Of course that would be frowned upon now...but I remember reading 'I am David' to a group and they'd either follow the text or hang on to every word, so enthralled were they...and they even appreciated the background history too...When the more able took the book home to finish it at the weekend, because they wanted to, I knew I'd done a good job. Even the weakest readers did their best to follow...and the listening 'element' certainly worked for them. Same with History...some teachers make it boring, others bring it alive with their tales...It's an important skill.
    Talk about 'nurture' in education...being told a good story is like being wrapped in a safe cocoon I think...yet some people can read aloud or tell tales and lose the listener because they don't have the knack of reeling in their audience. I listen to readers on Radio4 sometimes...and many are good but quite a few others read but without the necessary'magic' in their voices to make me want to know more, or continue listening.
     
  6. Thanks Nick! You explained the necessary 'magic' for me!
     
  7. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    Do whatever Oliver Postgate used to do and you wouldn't go far wrong.

    Kenneth Williams had a good presence on 'Jackanory' too.
     
  8. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    I entirely agree with you in this. History for me at school was as dull as ditchwater. I've learned more about history over the past year than throughout my entire school career and see it's relevance now, but I have only been able to do so thanks to listening to and watching historians tell me about it in a manner that makes me want to listen.
    Many years ago, I bought a battered copy of Science for the Citizen by Lancelot Hogben for 50p in a secondhand bookshop. I hadn't been looking for it, just something interesting to read and as I flipped through the pages, I realised he was telling me the history of science in it's various guises in a way that made me want to read more. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the entire content of the book, and accept that as it was published in 1938, understanding of science has improved, but this isn't the point.
    What is the point is that he told the history of science from it's origins and why it was deemed to be a worthy thing to study, the discoveries that were made and how this affected the way civilisation evolved and mostly benefitted from them. If I'd had a gifted science teacher who began the lessons with "Once upon a time..." and went on to talk about the background behind a particular topic in an engaging manner, I think there's a slim chance I would have become an eminent scientist. The same goes for maths and any other subject. The clever thing is being able to make people want to hear about it.
    Perhaps there is something for education to learn from Scheherazade in only telling part of the story in a lesson and revealing the end in the following lesson. If the story is presented in an interesting enough manner, kids will be eager to learn the outcome and be wanting to know more. It's a ploy used all the time by soap operas to get people to tune in for the next edition.
    But that would be real teaching, wouldn't it? Not so easy to pideonhole into a timetable of expected outcomes and results.
     
  9. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    I love telling little stories - I particularly as joyed the chance to do this when I did a spate of direct sales - but I prefer reading a good story out loud (to anyone!!). Arched eyebrow, I so agree with you - my favourites are James and he Giant Peach (I particularly like my rather camp, Yorkshire earthworm, and bombastic centipede), and the lion, witch and wardrobe (cs Lewis is such a fine writer to read aloud) - and I knew something wonderful was happening when a boy in my first class was so carried away with the story that he couldn't restrain himself from calling out his response. Such a privilege, and such a joy.
     
  10. Spanakopita

    Spanakopita New commenter

    You might be interested in a book I have just read called 'In Arabian Nights' by Tahir Shah about the Moroccan tradition of story tellers. I found it fascinating.
     
  11. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    Are you all sitting comfortably?
    Well, once upon a time....
     
  12. Confidence.
     
  13. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    Of course I am nutella. Would you read it to us, if the site had the capaability?
     

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