Storytelling 101: Learning from David Crabb

I took a storytelling class from David Crabb over the weekend. He's one of those teachers who are super supportive and positive with all the students, no matter what their exsperience level. Our class was filled with people like me---we were all just getting started in storytelling. As we stumbled along with the basics, he gave everyone the encouragement needed to continue storytelling. Even his criticism was brilliantly framed as, "So what did we want to see more of in this student's story?" instead of, for example, "What sucked about this story?" I would be shocked if anyone left the class without thinking they could someday be the next Moth Story Slam Winner. David's winning story is above.

Biggest lesson from the class for me? Storytelling is all about making the audience feel like they are having a spontaneous, almost intimate, conversation with you. The audience gets turned off when the story feels overly rehearsed. David told us if we say the same exact story twice, we're doing something wrong. I didn't understand this concept completely until I started trying to memorize my Mormon story. I wanted so badly to get it critiqued in class. Instead, I had to scrap it this time. I was trying to recite it word for word and it was totally boring. What was working on paper, wasn't working when I told it. The story I told on the second day of class was one that I didn't write down a single sentence. I was afraid if I did, I would ruin it. David said it's totally typical for writers to have a difficult time retelling their stories. Likewise, storytellers have the hardest time putting their stories down on paper. David Sedaris, he told us, was one of the rare talents--his written word is just as funny as when it's spoken. One in a million.

So beyond the people who heard my story in class, it's been floating in my brain. I've tried to write it this morning, but it was rough. Maybe someday, I'll have to set up a video camera . . .
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  1. Hey Sharon!

    Sounds like it was great class. I am happy for you to be delving into this storytelling world. Will you be doing more storytelling classes? I will email you sometime this week and we can start working on a little trip to Vermont

  2. such great advice to make it sound conversational. your stories are so great when we're just hanging out—i'm excited to see where you take this! :

  3. so amazing! i would love to take this class! you go girl.

  4. This is so true for me...i can write so clearly and precisely on paper, but it doesn't always translate when i try to tell it...best of luck!

  5. I think storytelling is waaaaaaaay harder than writing. I'd find it hard to get up with writing/memorising (I can see why you feel a pull to to that... it would definitely put me more at ease) but it sounds better for sure if you think of it as a conversation. This guys is really good. I'd love to see a video on here of one of your stories.

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