The oral tradition

Okay, yeah, that title sounds dirty. Maybe it’ll bring a little traffic to this here writin’ blog.

What? I’m into shameless promotion, okay?

Anyway. So last Wednesday I went to a Storytelling event in Chicago. I’ve blogged about this before–six or seven people take turns standing in front of a small crowd and tell a true-life story. I’ve signed up to tell one of my own; the waiting list is long and it looks like I’ll be performing sometime towards the end of summer. I’ve always been one to tell stories to a group of friends–complete with wild hand gestures and a smidgen of hyperbole–so this will be an extension of that. I’m excited and it’s far enough away that I’m not nervous.

The interesting thing is I’m finding similarities between my process for writing a story and telling one. When I write a story, I usually come up with a concept and a character right away. I spend several days or weeks or even months back-braining the concept, sussing out characters and maybe some plot. I mull over scenes while I’m mowing the yard. I think about the tone and structure and how I want the reader to feel as they’re reading it. Once I finally start putting words to paper, I might struggle with the plot–especially for longer works–but a lot of the work’s been done. Sure, there are setbacks and stumbles and do-overs, but that’s my basic process.

For my verbal story, I settled on an incident rather quickly. I’ve thought about the emotional points I want to hit. I’ve imagined myself telling certain parts of the story and how a pause here would be good and being a bit lively there would be a nice touch. I’ve come up with the structure and the tone (a mix of funny and bittersweet). I haven’t put words to paper yet, and I haven’t rehearsed it at all, but I feel like both of those are coming soon. I’ve got a leg up on this one because the plot is already set–what happens has already, well, happened.

I’m really looking forward to this.

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