"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Story Reunion: Meeting Old Tales as New Friends

Perhaps you have a story that you used to tell that has gone dusty. Perhaps you want to put new life into a story you tell over and over again. Regardless of the reason, you may be in need of a story reunion.

Taking the first steps toward a story reunion could be awkward, as it was when I attended my 10-year high school reunion. The relationship with the story has been unattended to and you are unsure as to the first words to say out of your mouth to tell it.

To get reacquainted, here are some ideas:
1. Tell the story backwards or out of order
2. Focus on the characters and their profiles
3. Draw a map of the setting
4. Create a backstory

Tell the story backwards or out of order
At a reunion, usually you share what you are up to currently and then work backwards to the time you knew your classmate in high school. Sometimes the same principle is needed for a story you haven't told for awhile.

Many national storytellers--from David Novak to Nancy Donoval--have suggested to shake up the order of telling a story. If the only types of stories you have told are chronological, then be prepared for an adventure of using flashbacks, premonitions, time travel or anything else that may inspire a new way of telling.

Focus on the characters and their profiles
Before I went to my reunion, I opened the yearbook and studied the pictures of my classmates. Perhaps I would have been more successful if I dedicated a piece of paper for each person so as to brainstorm any details or moments related to that person. This is one way how national storyteller Donald Davis is inspired.

A story that you tell probably will not need as many pieces of paper as if you were doing it for your graduating class. Looseleaf paper you can place in a binder is the best as then you can always add pages if the pen runs away from you from remembering so well. When you have squeezed all the information possible from your brain, then you can let the binder sit on a shelf until you are ready to add more.

Whether the characters in your story are real or make-believe, you can also list on the paper answers to questions often asked during an interview. If one of the story characters happen to be you, then you could pretend that a double of you walked into the room so that you can interview yourself. As for a family member or friend, then invite that person over for a fun get together.

For make-believe characters or perhaps characters who have passed on, then ask what your character would be like if you met them in-person. Pretend the person is in the same room with you.

Some questions you can "ask" your characters:
1. What is a typical day like for you?
2. What are your greatest strengths?
3. How do you think you got your strengths?
4. What are your greatest weaknesses? What bad habits do you have?
5. Who inspired you to be who you are today?
6. What would be a "dream come true" for you?
7. What would be your worst nightmare?
8. Do you have any rituals in the morning? Evening? If so, what are they? Why do you do them?
9. What is your most embarrassing moment?
10. What is your most triumphant moment?

Obviously, there are so many more questions you could ask. You may even explore such things as favorite colors, food, activity, etc. Many--or even none--of these things may not directly come up in the telling of your story, though are you not having more fun with your story? You the storyteller could know secrets about your characters that your audience may never know.

Draw a map of the setting
Many famous authors have at one time drawn a map of the place they plan to share adventures. J.R.R. Tolkien created the image of Middle Earth for The Lord of the Rings. J.K. Rowling took many on a train ride to Hogwarts and other places of the wizarding world in Harry Potter. The story becomes more real when there is a map to get there. The tricks of the author can also be the tricks of the storyteller.

The more elaborate you get, the more that images and adventures come to mind. Add color, labels, and landmarks.

Create a backstory
It would be nearly impossible to understand the background of all your classmates though it is possible to know the background for your story.

With the completion of the character profiles and the map, you may have so many stories coming to mind that a story you thought was dead is now reborn.

When Stars Wars first came out, the backstory was unknown except to George Lucas. We learned that Darth Vader was more human than we first supposed and the great friendship between Obi-wan Kenobi and Anikan Skywalker. Perhaps Star Wars would not have been as successful if Lucas at least at some idea as to the foundations of his story. Who knows? With time, the back story you create may be connected with your current telling of the tale like what happened with Star Wars.

The question to ask now: When will be your next story reunion?

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799

1 comment:

Sean said...

Well done and well thought out. These are essential basic techniques that all tellers should be aware of. Let's go a little further and Master Class this one: What if the room was in the room with you?

Storyteller.net is not in your links. I feel sad. ::giggle::