National Storytelling week...everyone has a tale to tell


As National Storytelling week draws to a close, I’d like to reflect on the importance of telling stories to help understand others, and yourself.


My fascination with stories began, like many other peoples, in childhood. Myths and legends were always my favorites, stories with gods and monsters and their dealings with every day folk. I was particularly fond of the ones where the hero was a seemingly ordinary person who, when trouble arose, discovered they were special, and capable of extraordinarily heroic deeds. If he was revealed to be special, then so could I!

As a storyteller for adults and children, I find the best stories are the ones that not only fuel the imagination but that the audience can identify with. When storytelling with children I get them to name characters, choose where we go next, give them the options of what we do and create magical worlds with them. They get so animated as their brains fizz with ideas faster than their mouths can articulate. It is all creativity with very little logic and it is a joy.

Adults often lose that spontaneity. They lose confidence in themselves, in their ideas. When asked, most people will tell you there’s nothing interesting about them, that they haven’t got any stories. If pressed though, everyone will recall something, everyone will think back and say “Well, there was this one time…” and out will flow a memory filled with half-truths, exaggerations but genuine emotion. Watch a person’s face when they tell you a story about their life. It lights up as they get lost in the memory, the feelings of the past showing in their eyes. It’s a wonderful thing to see. All it takes is the time to listen.

Most people won’t tell you their stories, because they don’t have a legitimate reason, an excuse. It’s one of the reasons a lot of peoples stories are saved for the pub, with alcohol being used as an excuse for “talking nonsense” and showing genuine emotion. That’s why I love my current work teaching creative writing in Bargoed, in the Welsh Valleys. I’ve got to meet a wide range of people of various ages,  many of whom are unemployed or disenfranchised. They all have stories to tell and just needed someone to listen. By giving them pen and paper, giving them simple exercises, encouraging them to tell me the truth, their confidence is growing week by week. In three weeks they will get to tell their stories to an audience, something some of them wouldn’t even have thought about a month ago.

If you have an idea for a story, write it down. Write it, read it out loud, tell people about it, because it’s in the telling that it becomes real. Other people will feel what you feel, other people will understand. And never say I don’t have a story, or mine isn’t good enough. Everyone has a story. Some are comedies, some are tragedies, most are a mixture of both. It all depends on where you start and end.