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ABCs of DMW: F is for Fairy Tales

Posted By Ken On June 9, 2009 @ 10:35 PM In People | No Comments

Twenty-six of the greatest lessons I was ever taught.

Twenty-six of the greatest lessons I was ever taught.

This is a chapter from The ABCs of Dan M. Wilson [1].

If I had to guess what your favorite trait of mine has been throughout your entire life, I’d say that it would have to be my ability to tell stories. Actually I’d be willing to bet that a lot of my friends would pick this attribute as their favorite of mine as well. And how did I learn to tell stories so well? Big shock, I learned it from my father.

Back in the day, bedtime for me came at nine o’clock. I remembered that whenever I’d hear the theme song for the TV show “Baretta” I knew it was time to make my way upstairs. Coincidentally, the opening line of the theme song had Sammy Davis Jr. singing “don’t go to bed with no price on your head.” On most nights, Grandma Pat would come upstairs and read me any story I picked out from the books on my bookshelf. On rare occasion however, Grandpa Dan would come in and be in charge of story time.

“Let me tell you a story…”

Now what made his bedtime stories so much better is that he completely made them up as he went along. He’d allow me to give him a simple plot line and the main characters – I’d naturally become the star and all of my friends would make up the supporting cast. I remember being unable to go to bed after he’d finish up telling me his tale as I was so excited. His stories were riveting and I would beg and beg him to tell me another. Those requests were denied each and every time because I had to go to bed after all.

“Let me tell you a story…”

I loved hearing Dad tell any story. The context of the story didn’t matter in the least. It was the way that he told the story – complete with different voices and sound effects – that had me hanging on every word. He was engaging, animated, and truly brought the listener into the world he had concocted. You literally felt like you were there. Sound familiar?

It became apparent over the years that Dad had a knack at adding a little bit to his tales of real events, embellishing facts here and there to get a laugh or to make the story more interesting. We may never know if Grandma Pat truly did get up on a table and sing “Dixie,” but Dad did such a great job at taking us into the story that we can all see it in our heads to this day.

Here’s what I learned from Dad in the realm of storytelling:

  • Relevance
    Take your audience into your tale at a time when it is germane. If you are talking about sports, tell a tale about sports. If you are discussing stupid things that people have done, pull out your best story in that thread. People are naturally already in tune with the subject matter so your story will resonate well.

  • Length
    This is one that I struggle with, as did your grandather. Every audience has their limit on how long they will listen to a tale no matter how intriguing it may be. You’ll learn over time the length at which your friends and family members will listen before tuning you out. Remember this when spinning your yarns and stick to it.

  • Know your audience
    Talk about an important one! Be acutely aware of your audience and only tell stories that would entertain those present. You wouldn’t tell a story about a video game you played to people in their 70s. They just wouldn’t care nor would they have any point of reference in which to compare.

  • Animated
    Be as animated as you like when telling the stories. It’s your end goal to take people into your world when telling your tale. Get up. Move about. Use your hands. Change your voice. Do whatever you can to bring your listeners into your world.

  • Engage and involve the listener
    One “trick” that Grandpa Dan excelled in was the subtle art of asking people a question in the middle of the story in order to make them feel a part of the telling of the tale. He’d reach a point in the story in which he could pause and would engage the listener with a question that pertained to the story at hand. Example: He’s telling a story that involves ice cream. He’d stop and ask one of the listeners to name a type of ice cream. Once the person answers, he’d incorporate it into the very next line of the story. “Okay, so here’s this guy with the silly hat on ordering a triple scoop of Rocky Road…”

  • Most of all, have fun with it
    Telling stories is about having fun for all involved. For you, the storyteller, the run is derived from drawing your audience into your world – either real or imagined. For the listener, they are hopefully having fun by the mere fact of being enraptured by your enjoyable storytelling

I couldn’t even begin to count the number of stories that Dad and I have told throughout our lives. Larger still would be the number of people who have listened and loved hearing our tall tales, you being among them.

We’re looking to you to carry on this Wilsonian tradition as you journey through life. It’s definitely something with which you’ve had ample experience.


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URL to article: http://www.kenthinks.com/2009/06/09/abcs-of-dmw-f-is-for-fairy-tales/

URLs in this post:

[1] The ABCs of Dan M. Wilson: http://www.kenthinks.com/2009/05/27/the-abcs-of-dan-m-wilson/

Copyright © 2009 KenThinks.com. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed in the articles contained on KenThinks.com come entirely from Ken's noggin. They are placed here merely for entertainment purposes and are not intended to offend or upset anyone but, as with any opinionated drivel, there's always that chance. I mean, come on, did you really think that everyone liked Seinfeld? Please. The opinions expressed in the articles contained on KenThinks.com come entirely from Ken's noggin. They are placed here merely for entertainment purposes and are not intended to offend or upset anyone but, as with any opinionated drivel, there's always that chance. I mean, come on, did you really think that everyone liked Seinfeld? Please.