Art of the Tell

You’re dispirited to hear someone repeating the story they just told you to someone else, particularly because they’re telling it exactly the same way. What you thought was a witty, off the cuff aside is actually part of a script designed to make storyteller seem insightful. You overhear storyteller’s second narration of their interior monologue, every nuance and stammer identical to its first telling, but this time the words are inescapably cloying and dead, like the dark spot of a tick head buried just beneath the skin.

You feel vaguely annoyed at this person, and disappointed that they’ve effectively killed the picture you’d painted in your head. After all, a story is a living thing, and gives one a glimpse of something, while a recital is just a faithful spew of words with neither foreplay nor afterlife.

“So the dealer tells us that we’re no longer a match for the car he’s selling, because we’re just talking about the money, and when it gets down to that then there’s no magic. And I pause, and I’m nodding. Then I point to the words painted on the glass and tell him, we’ll we’re in the finance office, you know? And usually that’s as good a place as any to start talking about money.”

You remember chuckling the first time you heard that, but now you feel like a discarded puppet, and none too unique as you overhear storyteller’s new audience laughing in exactly the same way.

“Then, believe it or not, he grabs his leg and apologizes. Sciatic nerve attack. He’s been having them off and on for a few weeks now. And I’m thinking, I should clutch my chest and start foaming at the mouth. Two can play that game, my friend.”

Puppets chuckle dutifully.

There is no grace here, and the human race drops a few pegs in your estimation. And for what? You think you’re going to enjoy a bit of burlesque but are instead witness to a third rate pole dance.

The art of telling a story must change when your audience is made up of small groups in close proximity. You must know what to leave out of a story – don’t allow your cleverness to make you giddy to the point where your blowing your bundle all at once. Don’t rehearse, don’t augment, and never ever repeat yourself.

And, taking my own advice, the next time I have to tell you this, dear reader, I’m going to do it with my fists.

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