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How to Tell Stories. Part 2.

Before we begin the second thing you need to know to tell a good story, we should probably start with a few basics. Like: why?

Why should you know how to tell stories in the first place?  It's simple.  Because stories will forever & ever trump facts. You can argue this all you want. You won’t win. (Especially since this is my blog & I have all the administrative rights. HA!).  Facts are secondary to our stories about facts. Maybe not for you & the twelve other people in the world who were actually there & really know the truth. But for the rest of the world, the story matters more. 

Life is about two things: the boring details & magic. Obviously, this doesn’t apply if you’re already enlightened. Then there’s only one thing & it’s all the same. But if you’re like most of us, magic is more important.

So, let’s face it. Magic will always be with us. People are not going to suddenly have an epiphany one day & start acting rationally. We aren’t rational. This is not going to change in the foreseeable future. So, instead of complaining about human beings being the way they are, I suggest that you learn to work with them.

That's why you want to learn to tell stories.

OK, enough of the why. Let's get to today's thing you need to know to tell stories:

2. We have two sons & when they were younger, every night I’d go in & lie on the rug & before they’d go to sleep, we’d tell stories. Tell us about the Queen of the Pirates, Dad. How she chops off the heads of the bandits with her sword. & the heads roll down the street. Thump. Thump. & the dogs chase after them & eat the eyeballs. Yeah. (It’s definitely a boy thing). But one night, my son Matthew said something I’ll never forget. Tell me some pictures, Dad. Tell me some pictures.

OK, you should write this one on your hand. It’s that important to telling a story. Stories aren’t really about words. We just use words to get the pictures across. Knowing this gives you a secret edge.

One more thing. If you want your stories to come alive, use pictures that are jewels. Clear. Dazzlingly bright. All your senses at once. Walking barefoot on wet grass. The smell of burning autumn leaves & the crunch of buttered cinnamon toast, the warm sticky feel of a child’s hand in yours. Pictures that tell us that you love this world & can be trusted to hold it gently. You have to be one of us, before we’ll even BEGIN to listen to your facts.

OK, is that rational? No, but it's true. This is why you want to learn how to tell stories. If for no other reason than WE KNOW THEY WORK. We have thousands of years of practical experience in how to tell stories to people & buried deep in our genes, hundreds of thousands of years of hearing stories. It's why when you start telling a good story, people actually listen to you & then afterwards come & sit at your feet & ask for autographs & make offers of food & sex. 

Why fight a good thing?

with love, Brian


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Reader Comments (5)

Brian--I discovered you a couple of months ago at a library book sale. You were tossed on a shelf of miscellaneous ten cent books. What I found was gold.

This entire post was beautiful. Thank you. I now have "tell me some pictures" taped to my computer monitor. :)

March 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjust jill

Some of my favorite people have ended up in Miscellaneous, instead of shelved in some other, more useful area :-) So, I consider that a high compliment, Jill...

with love, Brian

March 28, 2009 | Registered CommenterZenBandit

tell me some pictures dad - was that when it started? out of the mouths of babes.

March 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeidiRenee

Actually, it started before the boys were born, HeidiRenee. It just got WAY better after, because I had a more critical (& vocal) audience... :-)

with love, Brian

March 29, 2009 | Registered CommenterZenBandit

I love the statement that stories are not about words. I so get that, Brian. I have read and heard stories that had all these important sounding words and was bored outta' my mind because the words did not dance and they did not frame any pictures. I gotta' be able to "see" the story to enjoy it. And you do that so well with your stories.


April 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJo
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