Storytelling | being committed to the event

By Limor Shiponi

Pulse: I’ve read only half of Rapunzel, didn’t do anything with it, and I’ve practiced the Gorky story.

“Can you tell me whatever you have from ‘Rapunzel’?” G reported about the plot shortly, using a mish-mash of popular psychology and emotional kitsch. I repeated his ‘version’ to him. “What do you think – am I, the listener, satisfied?” “I don’t know. I told you about the story in short.” “Do you think it was interesting?” “No,” answered G. “So why tell me something not interesting?” G gave the question some thought.

“If I’ll tell you the story, I’ll have to go into it, live it. People today prefer you speak shortly, they don’t want to hear long stories, so I just take the short route and make a long story short.” “That wasn’t a story, not even a short one; it was not worth listening to at all. Why bother?” “Because if it’s short, they’ll listen,” said G. “As the listener I can tell you I’d rather not. I gained nothing from listening to the short report; it did not engage me in any way but frustration. I wanted a story and I didn’t get one.” “But I’m not confident in the story yet. I’ve heard it once from you and read half of it, that’s all.” “What do you need to be confident in?” I asked. “In myself, in myself as a storyteller and in what I’m about to tell, the story.”

“You’ve said many important things in just a few phrases,” I told G, “I’m rephrasing our conversation for you, here:

I will have to go into it, live it
Storytelling takes commitment.

People today prefer if you speak shortly
When required.

They don’t want to hear long stories
They don’t want to be bored. They never did.

But if it’s short, they’ll listen
That’s not what the audience said. Listen to the audience too.

I need to be confident in myself, in myself as a storyteller and in the story
I need to trust the listener, my skill, the story.”

G frowned.

“Now I’m going to ask you again and I’ll give you a little help. Can you tell me whatever you have from ‘Rapunzel’? Characters, scenes, pictures, actions, ideas, places, objects – whatever you can turn into words if you walk into the story. No specific order no desired outcome but words that capture what you see there.” G gave this question some thought too and set off to tell me what he had. I heard ‘Rapunzel’ told fully with sensitivity and quiet wonder. The plot was slightly changed, nevertheless the story was there. “How was it?” “Well, I have some of it but I don’t have the story yet.” “You’ve just told me a story. I’m the listener, the witness, remember? I’m telling you you’ve told me the story very well.” “I wasn’t committed to the story because I didn’t prepare, so I felt comfortable, maybe that helped, but it wasn’t good,” said G, “don’t be too easy on me. Look at the text – that’s not what I just told.” “That’s the text, not the story. You didn’t tell me the exact same text but you told me the same story” “Huh?” added G, perplexed.

I’ve mentioned the next explanation as a comment to ‘What I think about all the blah blah around the evolution of Storytelling‘. Here again:

Narrative is a vast accumulation of what eventually materializes into a story event including the medium. Many pieces of information, connections, sensations etc. The narrative of a story is finite although vast.

Plot is a choice taken in the narrative. A path of actions meeting details put in a certain way. Plot materializes in text, which is what most people mistakenly call ‘story’. There can be many versions to one plot, there can be many plots to one narrative.

Story is the emotional, intellectual and kinesthetic arch that rises in the listener (including the teller) while listening to the plot, to the teller’s voice, looking at him and into his eyes, using parts of the narrative, some of them not mentioned at all in the plot, using inner questions and wonders, personal context, communal context. Therefore, in storytelling, story exists only with the people taking part in the event.

The plot’s influence on the narrative is – form. Otherwise, we could lose ourselves in the endless ocean of narrative or just sit there and accumulate details.

The story’s influence on the plot is – theme. Themes are about things that interest people anywhere, anytime. Themes are universal and they demand the plot to be such that it can answer a human need. It helps us realize what the story is about for us. The story, not the text; for us as individuals and as a group, not for who created the text.

The narrative’s influence on story is – metaphor. Not every metaphor works for every narrative.

All the above is interconnected and works in mutual influence.

When I say story, I mean my internal experience, how I capture, resonate with and make sense out of what you are telling me, not only the text coming out of your mouth. That experience is created through my ability to capture what you’re telling me, see it, reflect upon it, feel my position, mix and match it with current questions I have, issues bothering me, unsolved far away thoughts, knowledge, sensual memories and fresh sensual hunting. When you told me the story, you were telling from your experience, with skill, with confidence and that’s why it worked well. You were not committed to the text but to the event and your part in it; which is what you need to commit to, not anything else.

We talked about this a little more and G realized he committed to the telling his stories when telling personal accounts and to the text when he told literary material. He couldn’t remember being committed to the event. That is a new perspective for him. “Now you can understand why I chose a folktale for you. You can’t offend or lower the author’s work because there is no author. Are you free to do whatever you want? Yes, as long as you are committed to improving and to the event. Confusing terminology I know, do you understand what I mean?”

“I’m not sure,” replied G, “but I do understand the text of a folktale is one possibility of telling the same plot in different words. I do find it difficult to differentiate story from plot internally. Logically I get it.”

This difficulty has to do with culture, habits and quite a few questions storytellers might have about what all this means in relation to our part in the act.

Next Trust the listener (witness)

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