Welcome to Storytelling Heart to Heart (by Master Storyteller, Tom Ware)

What does it take to become a Master Storyteller?   Is it life experience?   Is it travel?  Vocation?  Jobs he or she has held?  Or maybe hobbies?   Perhaps it stems from personal relationships, lovers, wives, husbands –family.   Is it in the genes?   Or does it come from some peculiar sensitivity?

            Certainly experience comes into it.  But what sorts of experiences?   We know that a storyteller is required to have a good imagination.   Does this mean that the stories are all made up – or even for the most part - made up?    Surely not, for most riveting stories are based on real life events.   

            We know, of course, that even real life events can become distorted; exaggerated, compromised to the extent they don’t tell what actually happened at all.   Take for example the stories that emanated from the New York Press in 1912 after the foundering of the RMS Titanic.  Those reports are still being corrected.   A friend gave me a book titled, ‘101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic But Never Did.’  

Storytelling Heart to Heart

Now, as a man who’s seen three Titanic films, read a good half-dozen books on the subject, I thought I knew the situation pretty well.   But I didn’t.   I’ve been telling this story orally to audiences for years and now find that quite a few of what I thought were factual events did not occur that way at all.   But back to stories on real life events.

            Did you know that before the advent of literature, before of the printing press and written history, just about the most important person in any tribe or clan other than the chief himself was the Official Storyteller.   Yes, the man who told the stories.   Why?  Because it was he who carried the knowledge of the tribe or clan down.  He was relied upon to carry it on for posterity.  With no printed words, no records other than drawings or finger-painting, the spoken word relayed on to others was the only way a tribe’s history could be passed down.

I remember once being introduced to a particular story teller.  He was a Scot.   He appeared  at our guild meeting in full Scottish regalia: kilt, cloak and sporum et cetera.   This man told us that in his clan, the man who told the stories about the tribe was regarded as the ‘third top’ clansman.   Such a person was expected to know at least 300 different yarns about the clan.

Storytelling Heart to Heart

It is only natural that many of those stories were embellished a little – and often a lot – so that by the time a few generations had passed the actual truth of what had happened had long ago been left far behind.

            So what makes for a masterful storyteller?    There has to be knowledge and a lot of it.   It needs to be broad, wide-ranging.  This comes from a number of sources:  wide subject reading, listening, watching, looking at film and television.   Such a man or woman has generally had access to good teachers, mentors, who have filled their imagination with pictures of adventure and daring do.    These teachers have inspired their progenies, motivated them to the point where they now want to tell of how they feel about things.

What else is required?   What else goes into the crucible of the master storyteller? 

            The gift for reading often becomes a desire to write.   The desire to write is augmented by a desire to tell tales, to tell stories orally.  A lot of reading and writing has probably developed the master storyteller’s vocabulary.   He or she has at their disposal an array of colorful words and expressions.  Such tend to keep away from the humdrum, commonplace, hackneyed expressions used by the many.   Alliteration falls readily to them.   Often they’ve been both short story and poetry readers – and writers!

Storytelling Heart to Heart

Another aspect of the man or woman who can tell a great story is showmanship.  They have mastered the pregnant pause.   They know how to use their voice.  They have not only vocal variety but, often as not, know how to place themselves and to move around in front of their audience.   They may have never been on a stage in their life as an actor, yet people will say to them, “Have you ever done any acting?”    Just as often as not such are able to imitate various speaking types: the Scot, the Irishman, the Cockney.   But these are all embellishments.  They are not the main quality.

            The greatest and most important of all the qualities a Master of Story possesses is understanding:  self understanding.  For when a person understands his or herself to a fairly deep degree, then they understand others.   The storyteller becomes a teacher.   There is a lot of emotion and empathy towards the world at large and to people in particular.   These types of storytellers speak from the heart; they are heart to heart people.   Listeners do not respond to homilies and slogans so much as to stories which catch at their heartstrings.

            Such is the master storyteller.   They were once the many.   Now they are so few.  Maybe it is about time that others rose to the challenge for, with the infinite burgeoning of impersonal technology, this great art might die out and, along with it something very important to our humanity - Creative Imagination.

Leave a Reply.