Things don’t happen just like that; I was reading an interview the other day – “The truth in Story” – read it, it’s an important piece. Then yesterday we were preparing for my band’s end-of-the-year campfire picnic. I use stories with my band occasionaly so they know I’m a storyteller. One of the younger players suggested I tell a spooky story. An 18 years old player jumped off her chair and said “No! just don’t tell a story!” Well, I aught to admit I was surprised and so were the other players. “Why not?!” asked the first girl, “spooky stories are fun!”
The elder player replied “spooky stories are fun if you see them on TV. Even a horror movie is ok. Reading a spooky story is frightening but listening to a storyteller is too much for me. If you tell a frightening story I will not be able to sleep for nights.” The other kids were still wondering while she went on suggesting a simple and effective explanation about the power of storytelling:
“Well, on TV or the movies they show you the horror – their horror. It’s not pretty to look at but it is a settled picture. When you read a book, it’s your horror you see in your mind. The words in the book give a suggestion and you pick it up from there. Realizing that makes me scared because I realize my own fears. Watching someone tell a story is realizing my own fears – because I’m doing the imagining – but at the same time I’m watching someone who creates a believable picture and might believe it himself, which is even more frightening to realize.”
Good point. Storytelling is powerful for various reasons and believability is one of them. It always makes me smile when people say storytellers are liars. No we are not. We don’t always tell the facts, but facts in storytelling are not what we are about. We are about the truth in the story which is an emotional act, a metaphor to our lives, a provocation of deeper truth than facts. And those truths are the listener’s perspective, not the story’s or the storyteller’s.
Many times people ask me “is that a true story?” or “could that be possible?” well, maybe think “what does that mean?” or “how is it relevant to my inner questions, what can I make out of this?” storytellers are not liars, we are seekers of truth. And truth – as the saying goes – is beyond imagination.