The Story-Place ~ Crafting the Art of being a Storyteller


This weekend was like an IV of oxygen straight into the arteries of my creative self.

I had been anticipating my first writer’s conference for about 2 months. I researched all the best online advice I could find on the net. I was ready to network,to observe,to question and to learn. However, nothing could have prepared me for the tremendous dose of inspiration and knowledge on offer at the RWNZ 2010.

From a VP of a top publishing house, to an Editor of another publishing house to an Agent to the many authors, scriptwriters and experts that gave workshops: It was this writer’s jolt of creative electricity. The questioning and learning was definitely achieved. The observing and networking was constant throughout the weekend. The conference venue was tangible in the creative energy that was enclosed in its hallways, ballrooms and boardrooms for 3 incredible days.

Personally, I had registered for this conference with the aim to garner knowledge from experts in the publishing industry. What I have gained from this weekend is immeasurably superior  to what I had hoped to gain.

One of the highlights of my weekend was finding critique partners that I can connect with. As much as I enjoy and appreciate the feedback from online critiques, it has been a task set for myself to find critique partners within my home city. This task I can now tick off my to-do list.

Being a writer though, I do not plan to selfishly keep all these creative pearls of wisdom to myself. I am a writer after all and I am a blogger. This means that my writing process is meant to be shared to the benefit of one and all.

Over the next few days I will break down all the workshops I attended into gourmet food for thought. For this blog post though I will give a bite size synopsis of all the tools and tips I learned this weekend.

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In the history of all cultures throughout the ages and throughout the world Story-telling has been and is crucial to human health. Every good story has at least one of the crucial elements at the heart of every culture: Love and Romance; Justice and Crime; Trials and Triumph of Good over Evil, Myth and Spiritual. Every story-teller is there to pass on the stories that record the history of nations, that inspire the actions of the present day and that influence the future of tomorrow.

So how do we define good story-telling?

There is a simple test that is a universal standard:

A) Does the story achieve what it sought to achieve?

and

B) Does the story communicate the story-teller’s intentions to the audience?

There are three critical aspects to ensure the correct outcome of a story:

1) Story

2) Inspiration

3) Language

In the first aspect, the audience simply seeks entertainment. This entertainment needs to satisfy them. The cardinal rule to any story, whether it be audio, visual or written is to never disappoint the audience. In the story they must be supplied with sympathetic protagonists that are believable. These protagonists need to grow through overcoming a conflict. Your antagonist is the instigation or the culmination of this conflict. These characters are the vehicle to carry the emotions of both the storyteller and the audience. The audience will mimic the emotions and actions of the characters that they are invested in emotionally. Though we are rational beings the audience needs its emotions engaged to invest their belief and their hopes in the story.

In the second aspect: Your inspiration needs to be at the heart of your story and needs to be communicated through any means necessary to your audience.

Memory is the mother of Inspiration. For both emotions and rational thought to be in balance, the storyteller needs to be AMUSED in the truest sense of the word. The story-teller needs to be in the presence of the Muses.

The third aspect of a storytellers’ toolkit is Language. You can alter the part that the audience plays in your story by the subtle mastering of some language tools. Painters use different colours of paint to portray a visual image. Musicians and composers use musical instruments and voice to entrance audiences. As story-tellers we need to use our greatest and simplest tools: we need to use our words to paint a picture and to create a world that the audience enters into through the doorway of our language.  In a story we are the composer, the painter and the director through the subtle mastery of words.The way we utilise them can bring the reader into the mind of a character or we can put them in the room observing our character.

Our words become our voice. Our sentences become our compositions of sound. Every storyteller needs to learn the art of language and words like a mime uses body language. The language needs to match the scene of the tale. If the scene is full of action, then the language needs to be staccato and terse in character. If the scene is full of conflict the language needs to be restrained and held back. If the scene is emotional, your words need to state the emotion. In any scene your characters need to be infused with depth and emotion. Your characters need to have strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately your audience needs to either recognise a reflection of themselves in your characters or a reflection of people in their lives.

Through all three of these crucial aspects we have the unique power of communicating a world we imagine to the audience’s imagination and touching both their hearts and their minds. For a magical moment in time whilst the reader is engaged in the tale: they begin to believe this world we have created through our words and they begin to be a part of the story themselves. The STORY-PLACE has now become a favourite destination for both the reader and the storyteller. The pen is a powerful weapon that has the power to change thoughts; mold views; create worlds; give power to the weak by giving them knowledge;  lastly it has the ability to take us, storyteller and reader, into a world where anything is possible...

Storyteller

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This is just a bite size appetiser of this weekend’s conference. Watch this blog for further illuminations on: The Story-Place ~ Crafting the Art if being a Storyteller.

I leave you with this thought:

In unsettled times like these, when world cultures, countries and religions are facing off in violent confrontations, we could benefit from the reminder that storytelling is common to all civilizations. Whether in the form of a sprawling epic or a pointed ballad, the story is our most ancient method of making sense out of experience and of preserving the past.” – William Collins quote

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

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