What makes a good storyteller, in your opinion? Are your favorite storytellers people you know or writers you admire?
When I was in high school, I competed in what was then called Declamation Contests. My favorite category was storytelling. I made it all the way to the state competition in Minnesota, and came in second because the first place winner smiled when she was finished, and I did not. Lesson #1: Enjoy yourself when you tell a story. Even if you’re frozen with fear 🙂
I told stories in Sunday school to children of all ages. I loved it, and that made my audience love it. Lesson #2: Love your subject matter.
I also enjoyed the kids. They loved a good story. I’ll never forget the time I made a “baaaa” sound for a sheep, and a little kid in the front row “baaaaa-ed” right back at me! Lesson #3: Enjoy your audience.
One of my favorite storytellers was Jerry Clower. Look him up on You Tube. You’ll be entertained. He’s one of many people from the deep South who can spin a yarn that will have you howling with laughter, all over the mundane things in life. Lesson #4: It helps to be Southern 🙂 Lesson #5: Tell stories about things that are familiar to you, and to your audience.
Another expert storyteller is Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame. He rarely raises his voice. He never roars with laughter. He is quiet, phlegmatic, and incredibly funny. A cohort of his, Howard Mohr, wrote the classic book How to talk Minnesotan. If you’ve lived there and then moved away, you’ll laugh your way through this book. If you’ve never lived anywhere else, you may not “get” it.
Lesson # 6: You don’t have to be knee-slapping funny. Sometimes, less is more.
Then, of course, I can’t forget about Pat McManus, who writes hilarious articles and books with unusual names like The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw, and They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They? If you like to read in bed, these books will get you kicked out of the bedroom for laughing so hard you wake up your spouse. There are wonderful characters like Strange, the dog; Pat’s sister, the Troll, and Retch Sweeney, the all-round fun weird neighbor. He writes a lot about outdoor stuff that guys like. One of my favorite stories is about the time he had to ride his bicycle to go hunting, shot a deer, and figured out a way to haul the deer down the mountain sitting astride behind him on the bike—-until the concussed deer woke up. . . . . .
Lesson #7: Leave your audience wanting more.