Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

  • Music:

Storytelling as a composite skill

Saturday's Tall Tales event was a fine outing -- a solidly good feast (as one would expect given the staff) and a remarkably good collection of entertainments. I don't think any of the performances were less than good, and some were really outstanding.

It was the first time I've done formal storytelling in *years*, and it was interesting to see how I've come to think of it. My big weakness in storytelling is that I really kinda suck at improvisation: when I'm thinking on my feet, I get ever-more pedantic and dull. I think I did decently on Saturday (I told a highly-embroidered version of The Pike Company On the Causeway), but I didn't really think of it as storytelling.

Instead, I put on a combination of my Writer and Ritualist caps. I spent the two days before the event "writing" the story in my head, and rehearsing it probably two dozen times. Never *quite* the same way twice, but gradually finding the gags that I really wanted to hit and memorizing them top-down the same way I do Masonic ritual: first the broad structure and the relationships of each point to the next, then gradually narrowing down the internal structure of each segment. The only real difference was that I omitted the usual step of word-for-word memorization, but even there I'd probably gotten about half the wording down solid before going on. For the actual performance, I had my verbal brain semi-disengaged (as I generally do in ritual), so that I could focus on hitting the emotional notes without worrying too much about the words.

It seemed to work: it got reasonably good laughs, and was probably the tallest tale of the bunch. (I was surprised that most of the war stories told were so *true*.) But I don't quite think of this process as "storytelling", which I envision as a somewhat more verbally-improvised art. I know that several of the people here are highly experienced storytellers, so I'm curious: how does this relate to how you do it? How much rehearsal and pre-structuring do you do, and how much do you just wing it based on a rough structure?
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