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The Blogger as Storyteller – TypeACon 2012

For a change of pace, I’ve headed to The Blogger as Storyteller with Laura Packer.

The Blogger as Storyteller

What is Storytelling?

When people use the word storytelling, they may think about someone giving a performance. Or lying. “Are you telling stories?” There’s oneupmanship. Marketing. Advertising.

But the origin of the word goes back to…

Story: late Middle English, Larin from Greek historia, “finding out.”
When we tell stories, we are at once conveying information and finding out more information.

Brain scans show that the narrative word has us experiencing things in a way we don’t when watching videos.

Storytelling is used as a basic art, to covey meaning, for safety, to persuade, to transfer knowledge, to build community, to create change. We all tell stories.

Information vs Story

  • Laura’s grandparents were immigrants, afraid of the Russian Pogroms
  • She has little sense of family history because her parents tried to separate from their heritage
  • Her favorite great aunt shared some artifacts

(Note: I fear my liveblogging cannot adequately convey Laura’s dynamic storytelling. This in and of itself underlines the power of storytelling. I’m experiencing her stories, but I’m only able to share the basic information that my fingers are fast enough to type during the limited amount of time we have. But when blogging, we can take the time to tell the stories we want to share with our readers.)

We crave knowledge, we crave the stories of our lives. It’s the little details that can pull at you. Laura tells us about the tablecloth and the candlesticks her grandmother brought to America from Russia because they were the only things she could carry. They were important to her because she liked to set a nice table, and she liked the way people’s faces looked in the glow of the Sabbath candles. She brought the [now broken] sewing machine so she could make new things for people in the New World.

Stories evoke images and emotions.

Storytelling Tools for Bloggers

The participants: the storyteller, the story, the audience. The relationships between the three participants are all integral parts of the storytelling experience… your relationship with the story, your relationship with your audience, and your audience’s relationship with the story.

Laura looks for a [demonstrated] slack-jaw reaction in her audience in person. When you are deeply into an experience, your ability to express emotion on your face disappears. (Please take note of this, conference speakers!)

Storytelling is all about building relationships and allowing the audience room for their own experiences.

It’s about whitespace.

(Question from the audience: Is the whitespace thing why the movie is always worse than the book? Laura says yes.)

We did an exercise where Laura told us a barebones story about Little Red Riding Hood, then asked us what color hair she had, what was in her basket, what kinds of trees were there, what the flowers looked like. When she tells stories, she leaves visual details out and talks more about smells and other senses.

1:1 Listening

  • Listener listens…
    • Don’t interrupt
    • Be present
    • If the speaker is quiet, let them think
    • Confidentiality
  • Speaker speaks
    • Not telling a story, just being listened to
    • Silence is okay

Longest 90 seconds of my life talking to the person next to me (who is lovely, by the way) without interruption. It felt awkward to try and fill the space without having someone else speaking. We’re so used to being interrupted all of the time, and you find yourself holding back pieces of your story based on other people’s feedback.

Takeaways

  • Whitespace allows the audience to own the story.
  • Listening tools can apply to any creative endeavor.
  • Sensory detail builds worlds.
  • If the audience owns it, they want to share it.

 

If these liveblogging posts are helpful to you, please consider liking WELL, in THIS House on Facebook.

Christina Gleason (818 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I’m a relatively high-functioning Aspie who also lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. I am not ashamed to admit that I am in the care of a psychiatrist, who assures me that people in therapy are often better adjusted than “normal” people who are not, because at least we know what our issues are and are working on them. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including World of Warcraft and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead. I have started writing no fewer than five novels, and I hope to finish one of them...eventually.


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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Laura Packer June 26, 2012, 9:27 am

    Thank you so much for this liveblog and for playing with me in the workshop. I know the listening exercise is really hard, but it’s a worthwhile thing, trying something new and challenging. Plus this is a really, really safe way to stretch a boundary.

    If I can help – or if you have any questions – please contact me.

    • Christina June 27, 2012, 12:50 pm

      Talking in general can be difficult for me, especially considering my recent Asperger’s diagnosis, which was actually the topic I choose for your exercise. But your storytelling tips were so helpful to me… I think what I learned from you will help me both on my blog and in my venture into fiction.

  • Laura July 2, 2012, 2:18 pm

    I’m really glad it helped. If you want to talk more about this work please get in touch. And good luck with the diagnosis, I hope naming makes it easier to manage.

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