In Storytellers, We Trust:
Storytelling is something most of us find to be such a natural way of connecting, discovering, learning and communicating. Statement of the obvious, no? 🙂 So, what it is about great storytelling that has this ability to slice right through us, make us feel nearly every emotion one can feel, that makes it impossible not to celebrate, pontificate on, or decide that, nope, that didn’t at all work for me.
No matter the apparent corner into which a character might find themselves painted, a great storyteller provides an escape route that surprises me. It makes my jaw drop like that wonderfully gaudy New Year’s ball in NYC, only in exponential fashion that resembles someone who may be mainlining the metha-crack. It makes me flail, falling backwards without a care as to what may be lurking behind me. The writer has given me that much, and in turn, I give them my trust.
The jaw dropping and flailing about isn’t only a result of those moments, those scenes and conversations that are loud and wild and huge in terms of the plot of the story or the relationships between the characters. It can also be a single gesture made in silence, with not even a smidge of recognition revealed on someone’s face, but merely a shift in stance or a finger touching another’s wrist or shoulder. Those bowl me over like gravity has ceased to exist.
The payoff. That’s what it is. Whether in the form of a penultimate resolution or revelation, or a quiet admission or acceptance, the payoff is that thing I feel that, well, it’s difficult to actually put into sufficient words, isn’t? Despite my efforts here, it’s that thing we feel and we know it when we feel it. It’s a puzzle piece that glides right into place like the smuggest of smug puzzle pieces. You know the ones. Whether rough edged or oh so satisfyingly smooth, the connections come together all for the payoff.
One of my favorite surprises in a story is when a character does something utterly unexpected and yet feels so right. It fits their personality or, rather, shines a brand new light from an as yet undiscovered corner that is filled with information about them. That gets me pumped. I can feel like I know a character pretty well, and probably do, but a great storyteller has the ability to still surprise me. It makes me want to party like it’s 1999… back in 1984.
These same storytellers stay far away from cheats, the easy way out, those eye roll worthy “solutions” used to move the plot along, especially through a tough situation with no easy solution. They always ring false to me, my logic decoder ring having to engage in order to cover the gap and leaping over the incongruent circumstances or character actions within them.
I like when a storyteller makes me work for it. I like to struggle along with the characters, be as brilliant and blind, hopeful and broken. To only know what the characters know puts me on their level, into the story instead of feeling like a helicopter getting an insider view from ten thousand feet. This isn’t easy to do. It’s pretty tricky to keep all of the moving parts of the plot lines and relationships working together without giving away too much. The only time I want to have one of those “no! don’t open the door!” moments is when I’m feeling the same sense of impending doom as the character. I want to feel the blindsiding joy or overwhelming sadness with the characters. If things are spelled out, it can kill what feels like spontaneity from those same characters. Don’t kill the spontaneity! Especially when it comes to emotion. I mean, c’mon, that’s what emotions are, spontaneous reactions to everything around us. If the characters have to work for it, the least I can do is the same.
I’m ohhhh so tempted to give some examples of moments in particular stories that demonstrate some of these things. However, I don’t want to inadvertently cause any spoilage for anyone who hasn’t read them yet. 🙂
Hmmmmmmmm, I could list some authors and some of the things they do that make their stories great for me without giving anything away. Ok, let’s see…
Someone who always makes me work hard for their stories is Aleksandr Voinov. He leaves so much unsaid and, in turn, makes me feel awesome when I figure something out. No matter the type of story, I know the work level for me is going to be gloriously high.
Joanna Chambers, my gosh, she’s always surprising me in her stories. The little things her characters do that show their true hearts kind of take my breath away and make me giddy.
A recent addition to the list of those who surprise me is John Wiltshire. He doesn’t ever take the easy way out and simultaneously has his characters doing and saying things that are oh so emotionally satisfying.
Oh, wait! How could I forget humor! Clever humor that doesn’t feel too clever for its own good. You’ll only need two guesses for some of the best in this category for me… J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry.
Edmond Manning. The way he manipulates language, emotion, and those word type things into the wonderful winding and twisting and celebratory stories of his, it takes me to a heady, buzzing place.
What is it about storytelling that grabs you? That irks you? What are some of your favorite components that make a great story for you? Can you replay a great story in your mind forever and ever after reading it? What about the characters, what makes them unforgettable?
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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