Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Thinking about memory’

Storytelling Starters ~ Harbingers of Spring

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

P1070285In folklore, bears are the harbingers of Spring and last weekend, visiting friends in Berlin, I saw a good many of them. Like the painted elephants that appeared all over London in the summer of 2010, these were extremely colourful creatures. Unlike the London elephants, which disappeared at the end of the summer when they were auctioned off for charity, the Berlin bears are there to stay. The bear. after all, is one of the symbols of the city and they are among its new emanations.

Bear stories

Covered in slogans or embellished with pictures, upside down or arms raised in a wave, the Berlin bears kept reminding me of bear stories. One I recalled while walking around is a foundation myth of the Modoc Indians of California. A very touching story, it tells how the little daughter of the Great Spirit is peeping out of the mountain in which they live when a great wind catches at her hair and blows her out of the mountain. After sliding down the snowy side of the mountain, the little girl ends up being found and raised by a mother bear. When she is grown, she marries one of the mother bear’s sons. Their children become the Modoc people.

But alas, when stories are prompted, it’s not always a matter of remembering them fully.  One of the curses of the storyteller is sometimes being plagued by half-remembered things, flotsam from stories that, once encountered, are no longer there in your mind. Back in London, I’ve had to try and catch up. One question that was bugging me had been prompted by my favourite among the Berlin bears, the blue one painted with signs of the cosmos. Wasn’t there a constellation or two that represents bears? And the answer, of course, is yes. It’s a story that occurs in Greek mythology. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Reflections on Telling and Writing

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot of late about the differences between telling and writing. Specifically I’ve been thinking about them in connection with personal tales. Here are some of my reflections – with a photo of some reflections to suit!

Personal tales

In storytelling, personal tales can play various different parts. They can be told in storytelling workshops where all kinds of ‘exercises’ can be based on them. They can be told in performance, perhaps as a kind of preamble to a bigger fictional tale. In Chinese storytelling traditions, I’ve read, this is a common technique.

But personal tales can also be told for their own sake and, in my recent thoughts about them, I’ve been considering some of the features that make them work in the telling. One way I decided to explore this was by consciously writing down some of the personal tales that I commonly tell either in my work or in personal life. I know this may seem very odd. Why bother to write down tales I normally tell, perhaps in conversation, sometimes in the course of a storytelling session? Well, doing so has made me newly aware of some of the distinguishing qualities of the spoken tale and how these have to change when you’re writing things down. Conversely, it has also made me understand from the opposite perspective what the storyteller has to learn to do when unpicking a written tale to make it work for a telling. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Memory Work 4

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Thinking about how you present a story can really help your memory of it. Props, rhythms, sounds, actions – this blog has talked about all these before. On the right, for instance, is my sea-tray which I featured in The Magic of Objects. But thinking about memory gives a timely prompt for thinking about such things again. Also useful is beginning to think about how different stories relate to each other. All over this earth, in every culture past and present,  are stories with similar themes. Developing an awareness of the relationships between them – what’s similar, what’s different – helps with an awareness of story in general. It develops the memory muscles. And that’s what storytelling is all about – developing your muscles as a storyteller so as to feel confident about sharing your stories and giving your listeners the pleasure of them too. It’s not work that ever ends. But as you go on, the process becomes part of the way that you think.

1. Developing effective presentation

Developing your thoughts about how to present your story can really help you as the storyteller. Decisions about presentation help embed your memory of what you are going to tell. For instance,  it’s important to pay attention to how your story will sound and where you may add good sound-effects. This applies whether your story is destined for adults or children. Refrains where appropriate can also add texture and help your audience to follow the direction the story is taking.

Another possibility if you’re telling to children is to introduce the story with some kind of game that not only relates to the story but encourages visualisation. (more…)