I guess this is another million dollar question. The way to go about it starts with observing specific moments where people say, “that way such a good story”.
Last week I had the opportunity to be reminded of this question once again. We had a concert involving eight storytellers and seven musicians. The line-up was an hour and a half long. We sat around a large table. An audience of 120 surrounded us in rows.
We moved from song to tale to tale to song. Some of the songs are known and the audience sang along with us. During the storytelling parts everyone listened closely. It was a magical evening and at the end quite a few people came up to say thanks and how they felt all the stories were so good.
What is a good story?
I grabbed the opportunity. The trans-like atmosphere made it easier to answer with ease, people were happy to share. Most respondents placed the palm of their hand over their heart or held my hand with both their hands. “It does something good to you. That’s what a good story is.” Many of them sighed in a good way, like clearing the dust off their heart.
They were not the only ones to experience the goodness. Two days later I still felt like walking on a cloud or mantled in a big hug. I wrote the storytellers how I felt and got back an avalanche of goodness. Lovely words, little stories, elaborate emotional expressions and blessings to all. One of them wrote, “I think it’s called happiness”.
Was it only the stories?
It was also the choice of stories, tailored to the specific event and audience. It was also the way the stories were told, influenced by signals coming from the audience. It was also the line-up and the music, the singing and the evolving sense of communion.
Yet people say – good story. Interesting, isn’t it? They complement the performers, the performance and atmosphere, but above all they say – good story.
Meaning – good story isn’t only about good text. It’s about much more which can be learned from this little example. It’s in the moment and all the moving parts that come together and it’s most probably something bigger than the sum of its parts.
Where do we go from here?
Some might be inclined to dissect each element they can figure out and theorize. I’ll make a softer suggestion: do it. Try and tell a good story. It takes experimentation but if you keep your eyes on the signals coming from your listeners, you’ll find the way. Practice makes better, just keep your senses open to those signals and what they are asking for. When you figure what they need – give it to them. Storytelling is an intimate act of give and take, it’s delicate, careful and respecting. And it makes for good stories.