Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters: A Piece of Advice

An American friend once told me about a literary seminar at which she’d been present.  The subject of discussion was a very long poem that had been written by one of the students in the group. The eminent writer leading the group – John Berryman as I recall – asked the student to read out the whole of this poem. Then, at the end, having listened intently, he quoted one small phrase from the poem and said, ‘Now that was good!’

Well, you could take that several ways. Quoting an actual phrase from the poem, however small, showed that the eminent writer had really listened. At the same time, the fact that he praised just one tiny part could be taken to mean that he’d really not rated much of the rest of it.  Yet hearing his praise of that one phrase  would surely have concentrated the minds of all who were present. What was especially good about that particular bit.

Perhaps being specific is a good thing. So here’s a thought that could apply to ordinary life. Instead of saying something general such as ‘That’s a nice coat!’  why not say something specific such as ‘That’s a very nice coat, I like the colour (or the shape or the length or the cloth)’?

Perhaps saying something particular can give more pleasure. It shows you’ve really noticed and, however briefly, you’ve thought about it.

Mind you, in ordinary life it’s probably true that we don’t want to feel too closely scrutinised. Some nice words will do, thank you very much.

P.S: The top photo is of a protea. I’ve chosen it today because, although each and every flower has its particularity, this one is so detailed and, in its detail, so precise.

PSS: The bottom photo is to remind you of my new book, The Uses of ‘a’.  It has 24 stories in it. A fox at night, Cinderella escaping from the future awarded to  her in the usual tale, a refugee mother desperately searching for her child: the subjects of the stories are varied, some funny, some sad. Buyers welcome. One for you, one for a friend for Christmas? To do the buying, just go to the top of my website.

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