Basic Storytelling & Story Collecting

Storytelling is as simple as a, b, c.

Just three parts:

  • To start with, you need to choose a story.
  • Then, you need to get it inside you somehow.
  • Finally, you need to get it out again, into someone else.

That’s about it.

For some of you that’s all you need to get to work.
I applaud you.
For the rest of us, the following posts will dig a little deeper.

Picking a story is nearly as complicated for me as the other parts, but just finding stories to choose from doesn’t have to be. Here are some on-line links and suggestions of stories that I have found useful.

Anything you’ve heard “a million times” is a completely legitimate option.

  • The Three Bears
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • The Three Pigs
  • The Little Red Hen
  • The Gingerbread Man

(Please tell me you know these. If you don’t, well, that’s no shame of yours, but please find a copy of My First Oxford Book of Stories and catch up on a few staples of Western culture.)

All of these stories have been “tongue polished” for hundreds of years, and the repetition (with a natural rhythm and building of tension) can help any teller pick up on the patterns that aid in remembering how the stories go.

If you want to do something a little more complex, I still recommend sticking with traditional (no single author) tale for your first effort.

Mainly because I’m thinking for down the road; if you start from scratch, the story is yours forever (you’ll never have to worry about copyright issues.)

That’s all I’m going to say about copyright for now, but there you go.

Collections of folktales will open your experience to a variety you may never have seen before, and I highly recommend picking up a few collections to read in a large chunks of time (like you would a novel) as well as one  story at a time.

  • The books published by Pantheon are my favorite, bar none. I’ve collected as many as my used-book stores have offered up
  • The Color Fairy Books by Andrew Lang contain the prejudices of their era, but have also stood the test of time– continuing to entrance with the magic of their stories despite the obvious dating of the language (and because of their age the whole collection is available in various cheep-to-free forms; I paid $2 to get an indexed copy for my Kindle. So worth it.)
    •  I’ve found the questionable elements easy enough to clean up if the story core is solid.
  • The Arabian Nights Entertainments are also online and searchable,
  • Indexed, online folktale links  are also fascinating to browse. If, for example, you want to try a Beauty and the Beast variant you can go directly to that section and read several to compare and contrast. Depending on the topic, many tales are just a few paragraphs long but still convey a full story. Those are terrific examples of the efficiency of folktales.

In short, there is no lack of options as you move into the first step of basic storytelling: deciding which of your discoveries to spend the next chunk of your time on.

2 thoughts on “Basic Storytelling & Story Collecting

  1. We were at a friend’s house last night, and their 5-year-old and Katherine put on a puppet show for me with Little Red Riding Hood puppets. They did a FANTASTIC job covering the story basics, and even did voices. It made me think of this post.

  2. I love watching how little ones recreate familiar tales and create “living” stories.

    I fancy I get to see the new, interactive desire for books (i.e. desire for books to be more interactive) in its beta form in my living room: They tag-team their storytelling, wresting control of a plot-point by virtue of volume or emotional intensity, and the negotiation is intense.

    Two days ago the example was of how and whether a particular character (the green Candyland piece, in this case) should express fear.

    M didn’t want him to be afraid. What I find fascinating that that E figured out that Green-being-afraid blocked her story– if Green was afraid the story couldn’t go on– and E had the awareness to try and meld both goals (“No, his scared is just to go, ‘AH!’ and keep going.”)

    This is what I’m very curious to see in modern and interactive storytelling. (I think we may already be seeing it in television shows with a very active fan-base.)

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