Teaching the mechanics of good story telling is like teaching a good golf swing.
Easy, because you can de-engineer a story and a golf swing… and laid out in its difference parts, they’re easy to understand and teach.
But with both, the whole is more than just the sum of its part.
Take this for example, back in the 80s the Chinese Government bought a brand spanking new Boeing 707, and out at a remote air field in the western Chinese badland, they took their new plane apart. Piece by piece. Screw by screw. Every piece of wire, every instrument, every piece of avionics… taken down to its smallest component.
And then they replicated each piece. Same weight, core material, dimensions, color, everything reproduced exactly to the tiniest detail.
You can probably figure how this end… the Chinese officials put both planes back together. Boeing’s original flew. Theirs didn’t.
A mysterious intangible goes into good plane building/good story telling/golf swing… that makes it work. Without that piece of magic, all you got is spare parts.
Mostly it’s talent. You got to have some innate, unreplicably unique talent to create things.
For core story telling you also got to have life experiences. Failures. Danger. Lost love. Flat tires. You got to stretch life out. And then, after being way out to the extreme, come back to your normal bearing. You gotta be hunger once or twice, and have found yourself in “ah shit” situations.
Southerners it seems to me have more exposure to these raw, unchartered experiences.
And for the written story you got to read a bunch of books to gain an understanding of good script. How to turn a good phrase.
But listen, there are thousands of good books out there, so start with the best… but also read the worst. You’ll find interesting stories sometimes hidden under the cluttered verbiage of throw- away books.
For the oral story you gotta spend times with real raconteurs, real characters, bellied up to some bar somewhere or sitting on the front porch of a farm house on a slow autumn afternoon.
Also this, I have a sister in law, BJ, who has this incredible talent to approach some old person with a grand smile and energy and interest and get that ol’ geezer to open up, and in a moment’s time get that person to say things that harken to stories lurking inside that old person’s old manner. And opened up by BJ, I’ve seen them time and again speak about things they’ve seen and done, that are uniquely interesting. Like old bad books that no one reads anymore, some of these old people have great, great stories inside.
You got listen to ‘um. Listen hard. Ask questions. Smile, show interest. Unleash your and their natural curiosity to get their stories out.
Though some of those boozers at the bar don’t need much prompting.
Once you start the construction of stories yourself – regardless the source, regardless fiction or non-fiction – you got to accentuate a strong belief in yourself. Thump your chest. Yell, throw some Louisiana Tabasco on your personality.
And then get to work, show some hang. Dedication. You got to put the time in. Sweat.
So look over the different parts to good story telling as listed below and in putting them all together, make some story magic yourself by adding talent, experience, listening skills, self- confidence and hang.
It’s that easy.
“Just yesterday finished watching Dead of Winter, the most detailed history I’ve watched of the doomed 1846 Donner Party stuck in the Sierra Nevada snows.
Just about all the heartache, betrayal, evil, and courage you would expect from such a disaster.
George Donner’s wife, Tamsen, put on a display of leadership, courage, self-sacrifice, and sheer endurance that words can barely convey.
I bow at her altar with extreme humbleness.
And after doing all this she marched six miles through the night snow, alone, to reach the second, Donner encampment at which by that time only one person remained.
This was a German immigrant named Keseson, thoroughly disliked by all, a wife beater, and overall a violent, cruel man.
When the next relief party finally got back to the Donner camp, they found Keseson the lone survivor in a rough cabin, filled with human body parts that he had been eating.
This despite the frozen cattle outside the cabin. When asked why he was eating human flesh with cattle beef nearby, he replied the human flesh tasted better.
Under pressure he admitted eating Tamsen Donner, though he claimed she first died of hypothermia. Maybe she did.
When Keseson finally got back to Sacramento with the relief party, he sued another Donner Party member for slander as the latter accused him of nasty things when they were all trapped in the mountains.
The jury sided with Keseson that he had been slandered, but give him a one dollar settlement, thus making sure everyone knew what they really thought.
Keseson went on to be ostracized by all in northern California, and no one knows where he was buried in some pauper’s grave.”
Left to Right: The Wilde Hare, his wife Libby, General Heini Aderholt and the mule
Now an awesome USAF fighter pilot known as Raven 45:
“I think of the following every Thanksgiving so thought I’d pass this along to you. I knew a very smart Army guy – ‘Dolf’ Carlson— in the Pentagon in the eighties – also a great storyteller. You, of course, remember what a big deal the Army made out of Thanksgiving.
Dolf was an infantry company commander and had his company out in an ambush position the day before Thanksgiving. He leaned over to his First Sergeant, Rodriguez, and whispered about how great it was that the Army was pulling them back the next day and bringing in all that great turkey and other stuff. Rodriguez (you’ll have to supply a Mexican accent) replied, “Sir, I do not eat turkey”. Okay, why not, said Dolf. “Sir, when I was drafted in 1952 I had to pull the guard duty one night. I was in the mess hall checking the reefer doors. I pulled open a reefer door and there was this cook fucking this turkey. I have not eaten turkey since”.
Ah, well, thank you Rodriguez!
Dolf (his parents named him Adolf of all things) retired as a Colonel and worked for a variety of think tanks. He was giving some kind of a presentation a few years ago in, I think, Georgia – as in USSR – when he was found dead in his hotel room.
One does wonder..”
There being some obvious connection between Thanksgiving, the Army cook and Doft's early death.