Friday, June 29, 2012

A Bard's Lament

This is an imagined conversation that started with an actual, true-to-life statement.

"So you're a storyteller? That doesn't sound very difficult. You just get up there and tell stories, right?"

ME: "There's more to storytelling than just telling stories. A good storyteller makes it look easy, but there are many techniques being used to ensure a solid performance. You don't realize how difficult it can be until you get locked in a room with a bad storyteller."

THEM: "Doesn't sound that tough to me. I'm sure I could do it. How hard could it be to tell a couple of stories?"

== Freaky Dream Sequence Music ==

ME: "I guess you're right. It's like being a musician, right? All you need is to strum a guitar and anyone can be a musician, right? Money for nuthin' and the chicks are free, as the song goes."

THEM: "Well no... that's not true. It takes years of training, dedication, and practice to learn how to play guitar. And it's not enough to play guitar, you also need to learn specific guitar playing styles like jazz, folk, rock, etc. The guitar is a powerful instrument and not just anyone can just play it well. That's ridiculous."

ME: "Oh... sorry. Right. Learning an instrument is different. Okay... so it's like being a writer, right? Anyone can sit a write a novel and get it published. It doesn't take any special skill to write a book. Anyone can write an interesting story and get published, right?"

THEM: "That's crazy talk! To be a successful writer, you need to understand the components of literature, grammar, and style! And it takes an enormous amount of dedication and discipline to just finish a story that you start, and even more courage to actually commit yourself to developing an idea into a creative work of art! Just being able to write a grocery list, an email, or a post-it-note to buy more milk is a world away from being a true writer. Are you insane?"

ME: "Of course. How naive of me. It's not a good comparison. I guess it would be like being an actor, right? You just memorize a few lines, put on some fancy clothes, and enjoy the limelight of public adoration. How hard can it be to be an actor?"

THEM: "What?!? Being an actor is more than just memorizing lines! You have to understand body language, voice projection, and portray realistic emotion on cue! It takes years of study, training, and more than a little competitive drive to succeed as an actor. To truly appreciate the theatrical art-form, you need to understand props, lighting, pacing, projection, movement, and emotive inflection! Acting is a very complicated art-form!"

ME: "Okay... I've got it now. It's like being a public speaker, like a politician. To deliver a good speech, you just need to review your speech a few times and everyone will hang off your every word, right?"

THEM: "Where have you been living... Under a rock? It doesn't matter how well-written a speech is: a bad delivery of that speech will destroy it. A talented public speaker needs to connect to his audience by his presence, his use of eye-contact, the clarity of his voice, and his innate knowledge of the speech. Just reading a speech will bore an audience to sleep, but the speaker who knows his speech intimately can move his listeners to tears or to battle. Speeches have been made or broken by the person who delivered them."

ME: "Well geez... I don't know. I guess storytelling relies of aspects of all those disciplines. Being a storyteller takes dedication, training, an understanding of voice, stance, body language, pacing, and really understanding your story. There are different storytelling styles, depending on the audience, and the storyteller needs to study them completely to be able to craft and deliver his story in a way that is compelling and entertaining to his audience. Storytelling is an art-form as complex and rich as acting, music, dance, writing, and public speaking."

THEM: "What? No... You just get up and tell a story. What's so hard about that? It's easy and any idiot can do it."


Copyright© 2010 John David Hickey