I borrowed the headline from an anecdote David Campbell once told me. As I recall, “It’s the pace. It’s the pace.” was the conclusion a fan of his came up with, upon wondering what makes David’s storytelling so satisfying.
Pace is critical to storytelling. From the beginning of G’s journey, we know he has a difficulty with pace. When telling personal stories, the pace issue doesn’t pop-up as a disturbance. He is a very energetic person so a high voltage style in the personal genres seems natural; but not when it comes to other material or softer personal texts.
Folktales impose pace related explorations; you have no chance of escaping the subject if you are serious about storytelling. Therefore, confrontation between G and Rapunzel become evident as we proceeded. “At times I feel I’m rushing like crazy, at other times I feel I’m lost in space,” complained G. “I know timing is critical but I have no idea around what I should do with this thought”. “Is it a thought or a feeling?” I wanted to know. “A feeling really,” said G, “I’m in a terrible hurry most of the time. It’s a long tale, I don’t want to bore the audience. I have a task to conclude and I want to conclude it”. “You mean telling tales become a ‘job to finish’?” I charged him. G looked as someone who realized something he wished he would never realize.
Why do you want to tell stories to people?
I asked G that question; a question any storyteller should ask himself occasionally.
“At the beginning I had a couple of stories I thought I could tell rather well so I wanted to tell them. Then I met the opportunity to learn storytelling and I did. I studied for two years, assembled a program, and actually achieved what I wanted – to tell my stories to an interested audience. As proceeding, I realized the power of storytelling and I wanted to do more. I collected more stories, told more people but haven’t reached the point I can say I have it and enjoy what I have. I’m still learning and I enjoy learning. Learning become a way of life for me and learning storytelling has opened new opportunities for learning.”
“You told me the answer to a different question. The original was ‘why do you want to tell stories to people?’ Do you have an answer to that question? Look for it, see if you can find one.”
“I’m destined for learning, solving issues within myself, finding peace of mind and communicating it with other people. Telling stories is about true learning, enjoyable although not necessarily easy, it’s truthful. By telling stories, I can do good and learn together with my audiences, other people, it is how I learn best. That’s why I want to tell them stories,” concluded G, looking content. After some pondering he added, “You can’t push learning, can you? You need a degree of complacency. I want to reach that place, to be more flexible.”
Yet as G learned through trial and error, flexibility is not exactly “to do whatever I feel like”. There are frameworks you need to put in place or else you are bound to get lost internally, which will reflect on the outside.
Know the palette before becoming an “artist”
I served G a blank page and a pencil and asked him to sketch a representation of Rapunzel, a simple symbol. “Obviously a tower with a long strand of hair dangling from the window,” he said. He sketched with attention to perspective so the tower will look tall and researched the possibility of drawing the strand of hair as described – golden like a sunray. It took time and he was not satisfied. Eventually he said, “OK. Not perfect but that’s what I have”. I pulled the page over and in three seconds sketched a taller rectangular tower, a small window close to the top and a long, wavy line with a ribbon close to its bottom. “Ah,” scorned G, “that’s kids’ stuff”. “Kids draw the important information. When they start adding details it is because they can see more details, but unless something in their environment is wrong, they know what’s important to make a point.”
I asked G to take this idea – drawing like a kid – and use it while sketching all the characters and places in Rapunzel on a small piece of paper. After he did, we went back to the story, only this time I asked for a ‘lean’ telling, keeping only the very important information, while leaving out the rest. He got lost after the first phrase realizing he didn’t have a real tool to discern what was important or how to tell that important stuff in his own words.
Suggestions? Practices? How is all this connected to pace?