Storytelling and Performing

  1. Storytelling involves using the imagination, but it also involves having a story to tell, which consists of a plot (and sub-plots if necessary) and characters.  A master storyteller can do this orally, without notes.  However you must learn to write your stories out as well before learning them or reading them to an audience.
  2. Sawyer considers the two main things in our technique is our voice (learning to control it) and the words we use (cultivating a rich vocabulary).  These belong to the speaker and can determine the presentation of the story and the acceptance of it as well.
  3. According to Sawyer, “The art of storytelling lies within the storyteller, to be searched for, drawn out, made to grow.” (26)  It involves:
    1. creative imagination, which we have discussed
    2. the power to evoke emotion
    3. a sense of spiritual conviction on the part of the teller where one shares one’s heart and spirit, to be gloriously alive (28)
    4. careful selection of the story or stories where the teller must study in solitude and silence for understanding
    5. a right approach, as a folk-art what is involved in the folk-emotions, imagination, and wisdom?
    6. is not simply to impart information or prescribed material
    7. being one’s own teacher and critic, developing love and propensity for the art (35)
    8. being dependent on the power of creation, with integrity, trust and vision
  4. According to MacDonald, a story is an event, so you have to plan the story carefully, selecting it, memorizing bits and episodes, practicing and evaluating it in terms of delivery, communication and the flow of the story.  What effect do you want to have?
  5. In teaching others to tell a story, the teacher must give the story, talk through the entire story, and then break into groups to evaluate the story.  Collect and evaluated various genres of stories, such as personal, literary, myths and historical ones.  “My colleagues sometimes suggest that those elaborate, soul-searched, personal stories and the hard-honed literary pieces which they construct and perform for adults are a higher art form, somehow on a different plane from the work of simply “telling stories to children.” Nonsense…. Art is judged by the ear and the heart.  A simply told parable may stand above all of these elaborately developed twenty-minute recitations.” (80)
  6. We must accept our role as storyteller by listening, identifying, instigating and reflecting. There is no right text, but infinite variants; repeated tellings tend to perfect a tale.  The storyteller must plunge in and let the audience help mold the story as he/she tells it; Learn the context in which the story originated; Don’t worry about exact cultural reproduction.
  7. Dutton ( talks of seven basic plots. The first is conflict, which results in heroes, escape and salvation; Second is the “rags to riches” where downtrodden characters have special talents or beauty that are revealed in a happy ending; Third is the “quest” where a hero fights evil and secures a priceless treasure often in an alien world with a thrilling escape; Fourth and fifth are comedy and tragedy, followed by rebirth and rebellion. We need to know something of plot structure in examining and analyzing stories.
  8. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery outlines a taxonomy of plot motifs including: Tragedy as plot motif moves from prosperity to calamity. (881) Tragedy is “exceptional calamity, not commonplace misfortunes” and focuses on the tragic hero, who always does something tragically wrong—has a basic character flaw. The story typically ends with the death of the hero, e.g. King Saul, Samson, Cain, Achan (Josh 7), Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Num 16). Wisdom literature also has a tragic thread in it as do many of the parables of Jesus. Overall, the tragedy plot motif includes:

Fall from innocence; Exile; Crime and punishment; Misprizing; Violence and Idolatry

And Comedy. This can be humor but it also denotes a type of story pattern as plot motif—it moves from the less to the more desirable.  It is a type of story pattern, the most common in the Bible with the happy ending its dominant characteristic. The typical ending is a marriage, feast, reconciliation or triumph over enemies. The overall comic movement is accompanied by certain story elements and stock characters (160).

Increase; Mercy; Reform; Reunion/ reconciliation; Rebirth; Restoration; Reward; Redemption; Return; Rags to riches; Homecoming and Outwitting.

9. Closely associated with plot motifs are character types.  Some of those mentioned in TDBI are:

Family roles: W, H, B, Z, elder child, younger child, et.

Vocational types: servant, steward, slave, military types, royal types

Authority figures: king, queen, advisors, judges, leaders, elders, reformers

Religious figures: priest, prophet, disciple, pilgrim, saint, martyr, etc.

Social types: matchmaker, virgin, age groups, neighbor, guest, witness, beggar, wanderer, etc.

Functional character types: trickster, giant, sufferer, dupe, tempter, etc.

Villain: prostitute, seducer, adulterer, rebel, murderer, traitor, thief, trickster, liar, coward, fool, etc.

Here are some examples of the characters and plot motifs from Kewa stories (LeRoy, 1985):

The Provident Wild Dog [There were two brothers, Aleka and Palolo].

The Pigs from the Forest Pool [Now I will tell how pigs originated. Lobai’s two sons, Agura and Ledepa lived at Kusayo where they hunted grasshoppers in the kunai grass fields.

The Pigs from the Sky [Two brothers built a house down in the kunai field where there used to be a lake…. That is what happened to Sika and Lopala.]

Pudi, Pepana and Their Wives [There were two brothers, Pudi and Pepana. Pepana often went hunting in the forest.]

Webi, Pisimi and Their Wives [Webi and Pisimi lived together.]

Asali, Mapuwiali and Their Wives [There were two youths, Asali and Mapuwiali who stayed together (hunter v. gardener)]

The Garden Despoiled [Ogeasi and Neabua were two brothers (birds v. possums)]

The Stolen Sweet Potatoes [Yetape and Toape were two brothers.]

An Old Man and His Tree [There were two brothers, Pawa and Ropa]

The Broken Arrow [There were two brothers, named Yali and Boso (wife v. bachelor=bcome different kinds of birds)]

10. There are many websites that talk about making stories but from a practical point of view we are concerned with how to put the story together and then deliver it.  This will include remembering it well enough to tell it, so we will look at memory and storytelling next time.

[Karl Franklin,