On Stories: Storytelling is running amok!

I spent the day listening to stories.  Not unusual.  I do this every day, and so do you.  Stories are pervasive and integral to being human.  Stories are the way people convey all sorts of information, advice, suggestions, and explain love and hate; and they have been doing this since the days when we sat around the campfire and did not complain about doing dishes because dishes had not yet been invented.

Today, I heard stories about corporate indifference (regarding expense checks), boyfriends in New York (and eating Monte Christos), how one fellow lost his car (it broke down on the interstate), how another got a surprise check (and what he spent it on), etc. etc.   I even heard a retelling of the urban legend about the man who went to coke all those years ago and cut a deal for his idea.  “Put it in bottles,” the man said.  And now his descendants are multi-bazillionaires.

Stories are pandemic among us all.  How many stories stacked up in your home over the holidays?  Did you hear about Aunt Lorraine?  It is a joke, which is to say a funny stor  I heard some jokes today as well, like the underwear bomber was wearing fruit of the boom…

Everyone tells stories.  We are natural storytellers, and to those who say, “everyone has a story to tell,” I would rather say, “everyone has a thousand stories to tell.”  To do it well, though, may be a different story.  To be like a shaman or wise woman of old and tell stories “professionally” may require some study and practice.  You are on your own for the practice, but I think I can help a little with the study.

Over the next few weeks or so I want to look at what separates a good story from a bad one.  I want to dissect the whole idea of stories and examine the elements that make up the art, craft, tradition, or instinct (and I do believe storytelling is something akin to instinct).  In particular, I want to focus on that often misunderstood element called plot, because there are some, dating back to Aristotle, who claim that there are only two plots in the universe…  Next time.

-Michael

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