The other day I buckled down and started writing the second 'big' story that has been percolating in my head. I wrote the intro, the scene- setter and I wrote it without stopping to correct or revise or redo. I took the (gleaned) advice of several writers I follow on Twitter and just wrote. And I was pleased with it. I passed it to a trusted friend to read it a s a draft and she liked it too.
And then I went to see the Devil's Violin Company performing their show 'The Singing Bones' at the Tobacco Factory. I was stunned and moved and in awe. The premise of the show is the telling of a story (containing three other stories within), accompanied by three musicians (accordion/guitar, violin and cello). The storyteller was majestic, translating the scenes and characters of the subjects of the story with clever delicacy; the joy, fear, darkness and humour of those tales vibrating strongly around the room.
I left, thinking hard about what I had seen, about what I had heard and what it meant for me. And those thoughts sat there, in my head until yesterday morning. I was in the shower, my place of cogitation, of daydreams and musings; and I started to tell the story, the scene I had written, aloud. I told it as if there were people there listening to me, as if I need to grab them, paint the scene, flavour the characters and locales with enticing imagery. I told the story differently to the way I had written it; it became more human, more personal, it's tone stronger and more real. It was much, much better; it was evocative, fuller and the bathroom applauded wildly in response (it did not). I was happier with the story I had just told. And when I tumbled out of the bathroom the first thing I did was write it down.
I am still thinking about this. One of the things I value from a writer that I read is a real skill with words, but I realised, after going back and looking, that the writers I really loved were those who were skilled with words, and were masterful, enchanting storytellers. They did not just write, they did not just narrate or convey or impart, they told a story; with skill and panache and a sense of timing; timing a performer learns on the stage, or the pavement, or the dirt patch which is their arena, in front of an audience.
I have long been fascinated with storytellers; watching and listening to them in the markets and street of Africa and the East, listening to my father and brother (both talented storytellers) in their day to day regaling of their adventures, real or imagined. There is a real magic in the skill of a storyteller, and whilst my quality is yet unknown, I think it has given me a way to do this thing I call writing. It has given me an insight into the way I need to think and write and storytell that has banished the all too frequent frustrations and left me positive and eager to write.