When I first heard about storytelling, I assumed it was all just glorified children’s stories. But the art of storytelling is so much deeper than that. Tellers weave tales of both fact and fiction, serious and humorous. These stories delve into the depths of the tellers themselves, all the while resonating with the listeners. There’s a certain magic to storytelling, something you need to experience to understand more completely (I’ve embedded a video at the end of this post as an example).
I’m fortunate enough to live not 30 minutes away from the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Tellers from all over the country – as well as from across the pond – come to Utah Valley for a weekend of telling stories. Although we couldn’t attend the entire event (time and money being a precious commodity these days), we were still able to attend one of the evening events – Laughing Night.
While many of the events feature more serious or simply thought-provoking stories, laughing night is dedicated to, well, laughing. Each teller has a story prepared that makes the audience weep between fits of laughter. Seriously, my wife was crying she was laughing so hard. While I absolutely love the more thought-provoking stories that come from the tellers’ lives, Laughing Night is my favorite. Professional storytellers have the formula down to a science, and their stories are calculated to make the biggest laughs.
And no, it’s not like stand-up comedy. It’s…different. But I can’t explain how, exactly. Again, it’s something you need to experience.
One of my all-time favorite tellers is Bil Lepp. He’s won West Virginia’s Liars’ Contest five times, meaning, he’s the best exaggerator you’ve ever known, and that right there is what makes his stories so incredibly funny (see video at the end of post). The way he tells, everything sounds so real, so…genuine. And then comes the parts where you know something’s not right; something is completely out of place in such a way that it’s impossible that such a thing could ever happen. And yet, you have no choice but to believe it. He makes you believe it. And that’s why he is so incredibly funny.
I wish all of you could see him and the other storytellers for yourself. I was fortunate enough to be able to take a storytelling class in college from a teller and his wife, both professionals in the field. It was a wonderful experience in learning the art of storytelling, which not only helped me craft my own stories to tell vocally, but in my writing as well.
As a writer, I look for all sorts of sources for improvement in my craft. These professional storytellers know how to hook their listeners. They know how to keep your attention riveted to their voice, soaking up every word. There is much I can learn from them in my own storytelling.
If you ever get a chance to see a storyteller, I encourage you to do so. You will learn so much about life from these wonderful people.
As promised, here is a story from Bil Lepp called Egg Babies. This is one of my all-time favorites. It’s so much better in person, but I think this audio telling does a wonderful job at capturing the idea behind Bil Lepp’s stories. Enjoy.
Click here to read the prologue and chapter 1 of my novel Dwarf Mountain