What do you think about the storyteller?

By Limor Shiponi

G gave his answers and went home. A week later we met again. The first thing I needed to do, was explain to G the difference between one-on-one training and group training – which was what he attended up till now.

Ground cleared, I read his answers back to him in sequence – eliminating the questions. “What do you think about the storyteller I’ve just read you about?” I asked.

Leaving G to ponder for a while, I need to tell you a little about him. G is close to 60 and without offending any other male – he is very energetic; one could say – too energetic. He is also rather tall and moves with large gestures. On the other hand – he is soft, aware of how people react to him, trying not to frighten them. Most of the time he tells personal “against all odds” stories, and lately finds great interest in folk tales and other earlier texts. G’s Hebrew is far from perfect and he makes syntax and lingual mistakes. In daily life it’s not a real problem, in storytelling it makes your ears ring. To say he is powerful sounds right, yet his power comes from his inner energy that can, at times, feel like stress. If you’ll read his answers you’ll see he mentioned a difficulty in using the full range of his voice together with a form of “blindness” in seeing some of the stories he tells or wants to tell. G calls himself dyslectic and he had problems reading since childhood. He’s a great guy and people like listening to him, when he manages to pull his act together. That doesn’t always happen.

G’s reflection

The G you just told me about is mainly looking at the possibility of doing good as a storyteller. I feel he is quite a ‘compressor’ in the way he tells. Something strange hit me while listening – he only asked for becoming better at what he already knows how to do. He didn’t ask for something new, did he?

As a storyteller, the guy is insecure and it has to do with two things – lack of memory and not knowing he actually knows what he’s doing. I see the situations in the story but react too late. I can’t play with my voice. I’m too busy with gestures. That makes me tired.

(Notice he moved into the first person)

I’m mantled with wisdom tales and knowledge but I have difficulty in telling those tales. I can’t really get in there. I can’t see the pictures although I realize good descriptions. I read slowly and by the time I gather enough words to see a picture I give up altogether.

I want to learn to take it easy, to enjoy the voyage even if it takes time. I know there are no real shortcuts, but I don’t have the time to sit down and learn. I want to be an “artist” and do good, I don’t have time for the “dirty work”. (Here, G smiled because of his own groundless claim…)

Syntax, proper language, diction, speaking the right words for the matter (decorum – L.S.) I want to stop saying to myself “it will be ok, I’ll make it somehow, go with the flow”. I want to know the audience the way a man knows a woman. I’m sure reading will enrich me. There are texts I remember from school like King David’s lament, which I really would like to try and tell, but I can’t see how.

Time for a work plan

G can see very well what needs to be fixed. What he can’t see is where to start from, what kind of help exactly to ask for, and whether there are things to do he never considered. My opinion, and that’s what I told G:

Visual is key in your case. If you can’t have visuals you’re lost and become defensive/offensive (stress). You have interest in various kinds of “storytelling mechanics” but right now it’s too early and lacks context. We’ll have to find a way to help you make friends with a text because of what is captures and codes, not only because of what it makes you feel. Reading is a problem for you right now, so we’ll learn the ancient Jewish way – I’ll read out loud, we both debate, ask questions and research – orally.

Work plan: one egg, one basket. Choose a single text, preferably very short and we’ll start from there. The best right now is to choose something “stiff” – a text where all words have to be told as-is, no “my way” stuff.

“Ok,” said G after some consideration, “David’s lament”.

Since I’m going to describe the entire process of working on that text, you might want to take a peek or even print it out for further reference as we proceed. After going through several translations I find 21th Century King James Version closer to the original – at least for this chapter. 2 Samuel 1 verses 17-27.

Next: In search for understanding through text

The original Hebrew text

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