Welcome to my blog, “Creating the World of a Story.” In this post, I am going to talk about a pair of activities which are often referred to by the same term, “storyteller.” I will define what I mean when I replace the term “storyteller” with “story-crafter,” and I will explore the qualities of an effective story-crafter. In addition, I will tell you something about myself, as a storyteller, a writer, and a story-crafter.
“Storyteller” has become something of a vague and widely used term. Movie makers, advertisers, journalists, speechmakers, all call themselves storytellers. Sometimes the word is associated with the performative act of speaking a story, using whatever words happen to emerge from the teller’s understanding of the story at the moment. I call myself a storyteller because I do this:
The creators of oral and written narratives share the same goal, which can best be expressed in this way: “I have a picture in my head and I want you to see it as clearly as I do.” This sharing of a set of mental images happens most effectively if the descriptions of those images are well crafted. Since crafting descriptions lies at the heart of both writing and telling stories, I shall save myself from innumerable instances of “and/or” by referring to us all as “story-crafters.”
A craft is something that can be learned and improved. I have created this blog to help story-crafters become more effective. An effective story-crafter:
- goes beyond simply learning and retelling their source material
- works to understand the world in which that source material was created
- using that understanding to connect their audience to the wisdom inherent in the story
Who am I to have all these opinions?
I am a teller, a teacher, and a writer of stories.
As a teller, a storyteller, I started by learning folktales out of books. I soon realized that I needed to know something about the worlds in which these stories were actually told. What, for example, was a troll? (We’ll be spending a lot of time with trolls, real Norwegian trolls, in this blog.) As I grew as a storyteller, I began to realize that my listeners connect so much better with the wisdom in the folktales I love if I really understand the stories. My storytelling repertoire includes folktales (especially those of the Scandinavian countries), sacred stories, legends and personal stories.
As a teacher, I integrate art into subject matter in a way that helps students “create and demonstrate their understanding through art.” (See the Kennedy Center Arts Integration website for more information.) I work with story tellers and listeners of all ages and in settings that range from formal classrooms to roadside workshops.
As a writer, I spent a number of years as a /editor of a small-town weekly paper. I also spent long hours trying to craft an epic historical novel about the life of Saint Columba of Iona. My Master’s thesis (my degree is in Humanities with a focus on Storytelling) explored the multitude of worlds in which the stories in the Germanic epic recorded in the Icelandic material titled Saga of the Volsungs were created.
And I am an author. My first book, Fifteen Pounds of Muscle and Bounce, is scheduled to be released by my publisher, The Small-Tooth Dog Publishing Group, at the end of this month. I have created this collection of uncomfortable and slightly-odd Norse folktales for – as my publisher puts it – “big kids.” I’m looking at 10 years old and up – readers who want more than rescued princesses in their folktales.
Now that you know that you are a story-crafter as well as a storyteller and/or a writer and that you can become a more effective story-crafter, You also know something about my experience with story-crafting in these areas.
In my next post I will talk both about the similarities between crafting folktales and fiction that is rooted in historical events. I will also talk about the oral tradition (which is also rooted in history).
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