National Story Telling

For me, the art of decent book writing comes down to three main things:

  • Attention to sensory detail
  • Apprehension/uncertainty
  • Relief/humour

Last year I had an article published about effective story telling and ultimately how if you can tell a story well, it really can bring even a poor story to life. But a well written story can captivate even the most mundane orator.

For example, right now, as I write this article, I can give you certain sensory data, or not.

I could say, my fingers are clicking away on my iPad screen. That’s a fairly accurate explanation.

Or I could talk about what I see, hear, smell, taste, feel, think and REALLY give you a bigger picture.

Since I’m in Mauritius at the time of writing this article (December 2015) Here is a story tellers way of describing my circumstances.

My iPad is generating more heat than I’d like, as my ordinarily trimmed fingernails tap at the screen as I write. Having had a hair cut before travelling, my blonde (currently very blonde due to sun exposure) tresses are at a tricky length – neither quite right for a ponytail or above the neckline, making heat rash below my hair line an irritation but not enough of a distraction to distract me from the overall clammy, sticky tropical heat. I’m well aware that I’m here in my shorts and everyone back home in the UK is under heavy duvets, listening to the pummelling rain upon the glass windows.

My only near comparison is a water filter in the swimming pool lit in an inviting pool behind me, with its constant water cleansing system a reminder that more than one of us is still here working after the lights at the bar went off an hour ago. If I can get this final article done a weight will be lifted.

Can you gauge the difference in the context of the amount of text generated? It requires more work doesn’t it?! This is simply a build up of sensory information that was not included in the initial description. The crucial fact being that every listener will ‘tune in’ to various elements of that sensory information in a different way than others.

Some listeners are auditory, meaning that they enjoy what they hear and the descriptive sounds. Some are more visual and enjoy descriptions in what they see, some are kinaesthetic and like to know about texture, temperature and feeling, and others might want to know about thoughts, or even smells and tastes.

If you’re telling your story to those who are highly visual, go ahead and talk mainly about what you see in your story – but how do you know they are visual? What if in that moment they are using some others sensory system? Can you build a better story by giving them access to richer sensory data?

Crucially can you teach them to become better storytellers by encouraging them to do the same?


By Gemma Bailey

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