The Art of Storytelling

Just saw this morning where my bio is up on the FandomFest website.  I am simultaneously thrilled and terrified, because it will be my first con (as an author).  At least I’ll have Tally and Lexxx with me to keep me in line.

Now I just have to get this silly blog running since it’s in my bio information.  I’ve picked a theme from the ones on the site, and now I just have to figure out what to talk about.

Baby steps, here…

Actually, I do have a subject today.

Storytelling,
and the Talent For Doing It Well

*~*~*~*~*~*

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Neal, gave my class a writing assignment.

“Choose your favorite fairy tale,” she said,  “and tell me what happens after your ‘Happily Ever After’.” I choose Beauty and the Beast, because I’m a hopeless romantic and I believe in the underdog being given a chance.  I was so excited about this assignment that I started crying.  I ran up to Mrs. Neal’s desk and asked her if I could rewrite the ending and then tell what happened next.  She said yes, and I think she was a little surprised by my fervor.

We started writing it in class.  It was a project, so we were given a week to finish it.

So the week passed, and I spent every waking moment working furiously on this story.  Then on the following Monday morning, we found out that we would each be given a chance to read our new endings. Most of my classmates wrote two paragraphs…or maybe a whole page if they felt really inspired.

I wrote sixty.  Sixty pages – as in sixty loose-leaf sheets of wide-ruled paper, front and back, in my scribbly little fifth-grader handwriting.  When it was my turn, I gathered my papers together and, beaming, walked proudly up to the front of the class, put my papers down on our little podium, and started to read.

It took me two days to read my story, and when it was over, everybody started clapping.  Everybody wanted to know how I did it.   They all wanted me to write another one.  And I knew in that very moment what I wanted to do with my life.

I wanted to be a writer.

I wasn’t really one of her favorite students – I was overweight and gawkish, and for the majority of my fifth-grade year, on crutches with a broken knee.  But even though she and I never really saw eye to eye, Mrs. Neal’s English class had the most profound effect on me.  She unknowingly gave me permission to express myself through words, to use them as tools to craft worlds, to let my imagination off of its chain and run free.

*~*~*~*~*~*

I tell this story for a reason, that reason being the point of this post:

Storytelling is an art.  It is a passion, a very reason for being.  It requires a certain command over language, to bend and twist the words into the shapes required to build the story.  It requires thought and foresight, and it takes patience, love, and effort.

I may not be the best storyteller ever to walk this planet, but I know my craft well enough to know that I am certainly capable of keeping an audience’s attention, at least for a moment or two.  Of the sixteen children in my fifth-grade class, I am the only one that has attempted to make a living with words.

Take this story, for example.  The fifteen others in that room that day would have told my story in the simplest way possible — “In fifth grade, I had to write a fairy tale ending, and I got a B”, or something of that nature.  Many of them probably don’t even remember that assignment, but I do.  It was a life-changing moment for me.

Later that year, I had two pieces of poetry published in one of those silly “Who’s Who” anthologies, and while it was sort of vanity press, it reinforced the ideas that I could be a great storyteller someday.  I still remember one of those poems word for word, and I wrote it eighteen years ago.

I constantly hear people talking about new or relatively unknown authors – they aren’t any good…they have no language control… they don’t use grammar properly… and I, too, find myself falling into that judgment trap.

I’m trying to do better, I promise.

I’m trying to do better because I know now that my style does not appeal to everyone.  In time, other people will say the same things about me (well, except for the grammar part, because I’m a little OCD about it).  People will disagree with my word choice or my phrasing, or even my story content.  I am prepared for that, and while it’s going to sting, I accept that it is part of the process of becoming a better storyteller.

I will take that criticism, and I will learn from it.  I will use it to make myself better.

No storyteller is a great storyteller from the start.  We all have to learn, grow, and change.  We all have to take our hard knocks right alongside our praise.  And no matter what we do, we have to keep doing it, because the worst possible thing for someone with an imagination as wild as mine can do, is keep it all bottled up.

Like I’ve said quite a few times already – Storytelling is an art.  And like any art, it is very much subjective.  Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean someone else won’t.  And just because they do like it doesn’t mean I will too.

So in closing… like me or not, this is my art, and I’m here to stay.

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