Thursday, November 12, 2009

Storytelling and the Frank Carson theory

We had the second True Stories Told Live event last night. It went very well. There's a report here. I assume that everybody in the audience is asking themselves whether they could get up and tell their own story. My daughter reckons she could never speak as the people did last night. On the other hand Russell Davies feels he could but isn't entirely sure he's got a story to tell.

The second concern is more challenging than the first. Some people have personal experiences which are truly exceptional; everybody has personal experiences that are noteworthy. I suppose what makes a storyteller is their ability to shape those experiences into a compelling narrative. I have a story based on something that happened to me thirty years ago. I think there's a story in it but I've spent hours trying to work out how I could tell it in a way that would make sense to the audience and also retain the vital element of surprise. I still haven't got there. Probably never will.

I think storytelling is all a matter of working out a shape. The best talkers are the ones who suspect they've already gone on too long. The worst are the ones who don't really know how they intend to finish. I'm sure I've trotted this one out before but there is no observation about public speaking as profoundly true as the one that goes "if you want me to talk for two minutes it'll take me two hours to prepare; if you want me to talk for two hours I can start any time you like."


  1. As a preacher I agree.

  2. Paul K1:34 pm

    There's an echo here of that old notion that "everybody has one novel in them". They don't.

    There's a huge difference between living a life, and translating that life into a structured narrative, bringing characters to life, highlighting significant moments... all the things which make a good story (or a good novel)

  3. Or, as someone once said: "Stories happen to those that can tell them".