Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Growing Stories

A friend of mine, Marek Bennett, who is an artist, musician and teacher, wrote a blog about his forthcoming graphic (comic) travelog of his visit to Slovakia.  It gave me pause for thought about stories and how they grow. In his blog, Marek likens his book like transplanting cabbage! Read it, it is interesting.

In the vein of nothing now is truly original, and with Marek's permission, his blog inspired me to think about stories in a similar way.  Personal stories more so, because they are, well - personal.  Something happens to us, we see or hear something and a seed is planted inside us - the seed of a story.  If we ignore it, it will die and be lost.  Some stories we want to lose and forget, but sometimes those are the stories we should keep, nurture and try to explore and find meaning in.  Sometimes our hardest work is our most valuable.

So here are my thoughts on stories beginning as seeds:

1/. Choose a seed

Heirloom seeds could be considered our family stories, or historical stories.  But there are also our personal stories as mentioned above like those heard on The Moth, traditional folk and faerie stories, myths, legends, sacred stories, the list can go on forever.

2/. Seeds need to be planted in fertile soil
Our minds need to hold these stories, collect them, and store them, recall them.  We need to be creative for the stories to become strong.  We need imagination.  We need to be able to place ourselves IN the story to feel and see, hear and touch those things in the story

3/. Seeds need the right nutrients to grow
For a story to grow (and by that I do not mean add lies for embellishment) you need to work on it. Going back to school, you need to make sure that you have all the who's, what's, why's, where's, when's which's and the how's! Without these the listener might get lost, find the story confusing, not understand what is happening.  The who, what, why, when, when, which and how are the nutrients of the story and without these the story will become stilted, awkward or stunted.  Sue Black has a great resource for these nutrients on her website (which has a number of other teacher resources).

4/. Keep the seedlings indoors until chance of frost has gone
Stories can trick you and trip you, and likewise if a story is brought outdoors before it is strong enough, you could damage or kill the story.  Tell the stories; at first to yourself, to a voice recorder, a pet, a stuffy, the mirror, on a car ride!  This is keeping those seedlings safe until they have grown stronger. Then tell to a practice audience to get the real feeling of the story.  This is like bringing the plants out during the day, but back in at night.  In Laura Packer's recent blog "Eight Things I Learned From the Kansas City Fringe Festival" she says of working with a practice audience: "Because I am a storyteller and not confined to a word-for-word script, the story shifted each time. I loved hearing how some bits rose to the surface and others fell away as I danced with the audience." Personally I like to find those bits that rise in case this indicates something else I need to bring to the story, and not be surprised, although that is fun too, and how stories grow!

5/. Once frost has passed, plant outside in a steady light
Many traditional cultures say that stories are living things - something I strongly believe - and that they only live, or become alive, when told.  If you have never told a story and been In The Story you are telling, then try it.  Not reciting a story, but telling it. When you do, you will understand what I mean by stories are living things.  By now the story you have been growing and nurturing is strong enough to go outside and into the light of day.  Telling the story truly gives the story strength to grow more.  It's roots will go down deeper, the shoots will become thicker and longer, the flowers more radiant.

6/. It doesn't hurt to learn more about your plant as it grows
Long after I have been telling a tale, I have uncovered older versions, or variants, and by reading, listening or looking over these I might find things that were missing - maybe there was another who, what, why, when, when, which or how that I was unaware of and has been brought to light.  I can choose to add that nutrient to the story, or make the decision that the story is strong enough and the right shape and form, and has the right type and number of flowers for me to make it without those extra bits.

7/. Take care of your plant and: Enjoy!

The story has become itself. It has grown from a small seed, and you have nurtured it, but it is it's own being - I believe - and it will continue to grow and change.  It will stay strong if you keep telling it, and will grow weak if you leave it alone with no nourishment at all.  Just like a plant the story will need watering, take it out and tell it once in a while as you learn new stories.  You will never forget it; the story will not die if you have tended it well and look after it well.  And over time your mind will contain a beautiful garden filled with tales and stories to share.  Some will be family stories, some will be personal stories, and some will be the folk and faerie tales we all love so well.

To hear some of my stories, visit my website and go to Free Stuff! And if you are looking for other resources on my website you can find them at: Resources and in the Teacher's Room.

Marek's book is called Slovakia, Fall in the Heart of Europe and you can read some of it and see it's growth on one if his many working websites: http://marekslovakia.wordpress.com


Iesha said...

This is fantastic!

Fiona said...

I really love this analogy! Thanks, I'm a fairly new storyteller with a lot to learn so I'll add this to my file of Useful Things to Know: Theories To Be Put Into Practice :)