Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Good/Bad Example of Storytelling


Want to know how to be a better storyteller (and funnier)?
Lead in. Savour the set-up.

Notice what Ken Davis does with the final story in this clip.
1. Introduces the idea of "the in-car backswing" with a long, fairly boring story about himself trying to reach the kids. (you actually want to help him make the story work. He's working you!)
2. He introduces the old man
3. He appeals to like-minded people (pastors/parents)
4. He sets up the "expected ending" of an old guy wagging his finger at you - It's never good.
5. He draws it out (in your imagionation) by saying it took 5 minutes for the old guy to get down the aisle. It doesn't literally take five minutes but you're in story-mode and you feel the five minutes.
6. The old guy gets to the stage and retells the "in-car backswing" story (briefly) - drawing out the "aha" moment even more.
7. The old guy provides the humour (funnier - and more believable - than if Ken was the 'wise' one) by reversing the expected ending - taking the side of the "in-car backswinger".


While this clip does demonstrate storytelling skills it also demonstrates the responsibility we have as storytellers to choose our stories with care. I do not agree with Ken's chosen topic and would never use it as a vehicle for storytelling or humour. Parental discipline should be proactive not reactive, planned not random. Parental discipline should model the "thought becoming action" decision process we want our children to grow into.

Because story accesses the imagination and emotional centres of the brain, story is as effective a teacher as actual experience. Would you want your child to experience your uncontrolled rage as you backswing violently hoping to make contact with their head? I hope not!

The stories we tell inform and reinforce our beliefs and the beliefs of our listeners. I wouldn't tell this story to an audience because it glorifies parental violence - and even treats it as funny. Hurting others is never a joke.

Especially us Dad's - which is who Ken is talking about - as those who represent our "Father" in Heaven, we are meant to love and protect those God has given us! Our goal, in every story told, should be to strengthen, encourage and empower those around us.

In good storytelling, humour is the vehicle - not the destination. Just because it's funny doesn't mean it's worth saying. As a values-based storyteller, I always ask first, "What am I teaching?" We teach through our stories, our actions and or chosen topics. Choose to glorify good values rather than speak against bad ones. People remember the story, not the point. Model the positive - Tell the story that builds others up.

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