"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Story Seed Idea: 3 Ways to Grow More than One Version on the Vine

Jack grew a beanstalk overnight from one bean. A storyteller plants one version of a story in mind and then cultivates a unique version that can be as impressive as mile-high vegetation.

Sometimes one version is all a storyteller can find after hours in the library. Certain stories are easier to find than others. When researching the classic King Midas story, I read 72 versions before exploring how to develop my voice to the tale.

Most stories do not offer so much material.

So what does a storyteller do when nothing can be found?

3 Ways To Grow More Than One Version Of A Story:
  • Culture
  • Current Events
  • Classifying through Aarne-Thompson System
Delving into the culture of a tale is most obvious for folktales, though any story has a culture connected to it. Keep in mind that culture could include a region, time period, religion, social group, gender, or generation.

A story tends to state its area of origin. A folktale could be told in general terms and lack any reference to the cultural elements despite being labeled as a “Cuban” or “Ojibwa” or “Vakishamba tribe in Africa”. The story might have a word or phrase of the language that provides flavor. Otherwise, the teller could add foreign words.

A storyteller may find benefit in learning the social traditions connected to birth, marriage, death, or other events and merge it with the original story.

Books from the juvenile literature section provide excellent pictures so that the storyteller could create a pretend map of the scenery for the folktale.

Current Events
The Internet, especially Facebook and Twitter, have expanded exponentially how people access the news.

Through Twitter, people could receive mini press releases with no more than 30 words. A website usually accompanies the post for more details. This tiny version of news makes it possible to scan headlines of 100+ stories in a few minutes. A storyteller could click on the tweet that relates closest to the story that the storyteller may be working on at the moment.

For example, in the Aboriginal Australian story “Gooloo the Magpie and the Wahroogah” a magpie-woman named Gooloo offers to watch over the tribe’s children while the fathers hunt and the mothers gather fruit amongst the trees. When the mothers return, the children are gone.

A storyteller might find a newspaper article or TV broadcast that focuses on a kidnapping. Though the cultures may be different, the news would share the heart wrenching feelings felt by the parents. A storyteller may gain inspiration on how to approach the Australian tale by merging with universal emotions and themes.

Classifying through Aarne-Thompson System
Librarians have the Dewy Decimal System to find books. Storytellers have the Aarne-Thompson System to find stories from the folk and fairy tale realm.

The Aarne-Thompson uses letters and numbers to divide categories and themes.

For the motif of “Conception and Birth”, a storyteller would find those stories from T500-T599. Within these numbers are related subcategories.

Consider some of the types found under T500-T599:
  • T511.1—Conception from eating a fruit
  • T511.1.1—Conception from eating apple
  • T511.2.0.1—Conception from eating root
  • T511.—Girl called Gatherer because she is best in tribe at knowing and getting plants
  • T511.2.0.2—Conception from eating leaves
Underneath the numbers, often one or more story is listed. Sometimes there are complete bibliographies. A storyteller searches for the recommended books and continues the research adventure.

The Storyteller’s Sourcebook” is a fantastic book compiled by Margaret Read MacDonald with the Aarne-Thompson System as well as the ability to search by subject and title. Although out-of-print, many libraries have this book in their reference section.

Even when a storyteller develops a personal or historical piece, discovering folktales that have similar themes could be considered explorative research. Inspiration comes from everywhere.

Suddenly the one version a teller started with could branch into endless possibilities. . .as endless as that beanstalk that Jack climbed.

Do you have your story seed?

Let it grow!

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Mothering a Program: How to Give Birth to Story Success

Most mothers are ready for their baby to come when ten months or so have passed. They have swallowed hundreds of pre-natal pills, stuffed and filled drawers and closets with baby clothes, and packed the suitcase for that urgent ride to the hospital for delivery.

A storyteller could learn from mothers on how to care for the mental, physical and emotional needs.


For the Story—

A mother does not expect to become pregnant and then deliver the baby the next day. She likely made a lot of to-do lists. Repainting a room for the nursery is probably a priority.

The story needs to be outlined in a way that works for the tellers. Some people prefer the visual way by storyboarding. Whether drawing stick figures or intensely detailed images, these series of pictures could bring order to a complex plot.

I enjoy using French Scenes of which the environment, character feelings, and progression of the plot are explored for each part of the story. I ponder upon the Hero’s Journey structure as shared by Joseph Campbell. The hero’s beginning, call to adventures, road of trials, and the ultimate boon can be adapted to most types of stories.

For You—

A mother dreams what that moment will be like to hold the new precious one in her arms.

Storytellers can also dream of the perfect performance. Storyteller Carol Esterreicher taught me about the “Circle of Excellence”, a neuro-linguistic practice. An imaginary circle is pictured while the teller builds the visual, audio, and kinetic elements that would motivate and create the best environment for storytelling. For example, one might imagine an elaborate opera house with lights up, friends and family in the audience, hearing applause, and feeling warmth and delight from everyone. A cue, like putting on a cap, might trigger these positive thoughts regardless of the actual atmosphere.

Another mental preparation is to have silence. I prefer to have the radio off when I drive to a performance. This allows me to think only of the stories to be shared at the performance.


For the Story—

A mother’s whole body expands and changes to make room for the little one forming in the womb.

The first time that a story is told aloud, then the story is able to grow and become larger than it was at the beginning. Besides the words, facial expressions and gestures flow with the story. It creates what storyteller Donald Davis calls as “body memory”. The story is beyond outlines and storyboards now.

For You—

A mother attends classes to learn how to breathe properly for delivery.

Does this sound familiar? Storytellers must know how to breathe. We breathe so many times during the day that we may take it for granted. When our breathing is acknowledged, then we can control it to enhance out performance.

Our breath may quicken for showtime. Taking deep breaths in and out could calm the nerves and allow us to do our best. I enjoy throwing in some loud yawns. A yawn is the body’s way of saying that more oxygen is needed and not always that one is tired. If no other warm-ups for the vocal chords are done, then some yawns and breaths could help.


For the Story—

A mother could have any emotion emerge at any moment. She does her best to keep the hormones in check.

A storyteller needs to have these skills of detecting when the emotions are too much for a story. Certain tales may remind of tender or outrageous moments. Sadness or anger might come forth from the story and make the audience uncomfortable. The story may need to be “excused” until enough time has passed to feel in control.

For You—

A mother knows ultimate joy because she has felt the sorrows. No matter what the obstacle, a mother knows that everything is worth it for that joy.

Fear could easily beset the storyteller. After the preparations and practices, the showtime—or delivery—of the program is at hand. Grasp onto the feeling of confidence that you did all that you could do to make the program a success. You will feel satisfaction when you hear the applause and realize that you did your best.

So what are you waiting for? Go and deliver some beautiful story success!

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/