Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Storytelling:Woolgathering 1.2 Exaggerate!

Storytelling: Woolgather & Exercise

by Norah Dooley
Theory and Practice for Storytelling as a 21st Century Skill
(Yeah, I just was not "feeling" the Think&Do title.  And Theory and Practice is too dry, just not me. So I have new title. Woolgathering; it is what I do best! Exercise; it is what I need most.)

Storytelling: Woolgather & Exercise 1.2  Exaggerate!

Those who listen to my bombast know me as the Empress of Hyperbole. I play fast and loose with size, quantity and quality in my storytelling.  I try not to do so when I write but in the heat of speaking moments, 'once'  may become become 4xs  and big becomes giant and salt should be liberally applied. Really no point in checking my facts if I am telling a story - I shade, stretch and distort with the best of them. I know I am employing hyperbole "exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.  And people, g_d help 'em, do listen so I know it works.  Here is wool and wisdom gathered on the subject of exaggeration.

  In his post FOUR rules I practice in storytelling: Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor + Blogger says

Creative Whack Pack
“I cannot tell you how many people have asked me, "Was that story you told yesterday actually true?" I guess it was so outrageous that it was pretty hard to believe. The answer is: Yes. It's true. And I thought it would provide a good opportunity for me to talk a little about storytelling as illustration in any kind of public speaking - whether it's a sermon or a lecture or a speech…

1) Exaggeration is ok. Most of the time, I look for ways to insert an absurdity. Strategically placed, these accomplish 2 things: 1- they make the story fun and funny, 2- absurdities tell the listener, "that part is an embellishment." In this particular story, I said something like, "I was so mad, I pumped iron like the old Arnold..." Well, that's clearly not true. But it's also clearly an embellishment. It's so absurd that it cannot possibly be true.

Where Pastor Hughes is very careful about his exaggeration, I think that in a short story like a 5 minute slam story it is sometimes necessary to distort story elements to get your meaning across. Is this alright? I say, yes. Is it truthful?  Well, no. But is it dishonest - to you intend to deceive and make people think particular details are true for some ego gratifying purpose? I think this is crucial. Since storytelling is an art - not journalism, we need to have room to create.  Exaggeration as a brainstorming tool can lead amazing results. 

Exercise:  1.2  Exaggerate!

1. In any story you want to tell try adding an exaggerated detail at the beginning and end of your story. Tell your whole story with and without the detail (to a live listener or record it) Ask for specific feed back. Does the new detail distract from your intended meaning or heighten it? Does it add some panache to your performance or does it call too much attention to itself?

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1 comment:

Carolyn Stearns said...

I wish I could post a photo in reply I have a flock of them in mind, photo coming via some other web manufactured conveyance. Well, as soon as I find it somewhere on the external hard drive with a million others!
truth - stretch or exagerate too late to tell!