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The Art of Storytelling (1 Viewer)

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I was listening to Matthew Dicks, a 5 times winner of the Moth storytelling championship. Not all poems tell a story, but there are elements that cross over, and many poems, particularly narrative [oems, do tell a story. Two things stood out for me in this discussion. First, he said that a good story must be transformative. In other words, it shows how the speaker has been changed by some event and therefore, the listener is changed too. I think this is a great insight and certainly applies to good poetry. The other thing that struck me is when he said you need to know the ending before you start. And in order to demonstrate transformation in the story, he will begin the story with the opposite, or antithesis, of the ending. Now I am sure this can work in a good poem but I am not sure that such a strategy is necessary to write a good poem. What do you think?
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
The film Kubo and the Two Strings does an amazing job illustrating this concept. Kubo, who supports his ailing mother with his story craft and paper folding, never finishes his stories, but always draws crowds because his vingettes are so vivid.

Yes, you can tell a very good story without knowing the ending because going with the flow of a piece can take you to places you might not have gone otherwise.

For my part, one of my favourite pieces, Where the Brook and the River Meet: The First Journey of Violet Bright was not planned. It was a total spur of the moment I need to do something with this phrase idea. I followed the glass rabbit and end up with some excellent material that has proven crucial in later pieces.

I'm currently working on the Second and Third Journeys. The Glass Girls, Turtle, the Sandmen, Back the Black, the Lessthan, Harbinger, all of them start of as a flash of an idea with no set ending. If I only told a story if I knew the ending I would have very little show for it.

Old radio/television shows took advantage of the episode format. Tune in next time to X. (Will X be able to achieve Y in time?)

Avatar the Last Airbender utilizes this format bring a satisfying close to a smaller event within the greater whole of the story while moving characters toward a somewhat murky goal.

Cheek by jowl with this is didatic storytelling. Didactic, which has two working definitions.

The first being:

intended to teach, particularly in having moral instruction as an ulterior motive.
"a didactic novel that set out to expose social injustice"

Good storytelling imparts things like social injustice, prejudice, easy vs right, good vs evil, and a capacity to change.

e.g. Harry Potter, LOTR, Chronicles of Narnia, heck even Shel Silverstein. (Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Refused to Take the Garbage Out)

in the manner of a teacher, particularly so as to treat someone in a patronizing way.
"slow-paced, didactic lectur

Definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary

The second definition of the word is one of the main killers of a story because it takes the reader/listener for granted. It is one of the fastest ways to lose a reader/listener's empathy.

And it is with the reader/listener's empathy that the power of effective storytelling rests. It is why these ideas and characters stay with us long after we have enjoyed them. It is also why we can forget a lecture seconds after we endured it.

It is the difference between active and passive storytelling.
 
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midnightpoet

WF Veterans
I think Darkkin's example illustrates my point; one, it may well depend on the poet and two, the length and complexity of the plot. If short, like just one page, I usually visualize the whole plot - yet before I finish some lines come to me as I'm typing and the ending may be somewhat different. Knowing the ending may well give the poet a starting point, but in the writing journey you may well find a better ending than you started with. At the end of the road you may find a blinking yellow caution light is better than a detour sign.
 

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I guess my reaction to the "story-teller's creed" that you should know the ending before you start, is that this means it's a story about something that has already happened. I know that, for me, I am happiest when I am writing. So for me, the process is the most important part. Sure, I want to write a good poem and I want other people to read it it but it is in the process of writing that I find transformation rather than telling a story about transformation that happened in the past. Or maybe it is a poem about transformation but i don't really know that until I write the poem and discover the transformation. But if I know the ending before I start, transformation can't happen in the process of writing. I want the reader to have the same sense of transformation reading the poem as I did while I was writing it.
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
It is the moment when you realise what you have written is saying something meaningful. An almost unconscious expression of something like kindness, for example.

A lesson does not need to be a weighty affair in order to make a difference. It is the rock that starts the ripple and sets a person thinking of something beyond themselves.
 
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