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Why All Stories Love Noise Cushioning Carpet and Curtains

Like my knee jerk reaction to people asking me if I have been reading any more stories lately, I can struggle when trying to get people to understand what a storytelling event needs in the way of atmosphere. 

My spiel goes like this: Storytelling is not the same as background music in a bar, you need people’s attention, you don’t just talk over storytellers and expect to enjoy the story, or be respectful. 

Tv and radio have changed how we listen; we can talk over radio, walk away from the telly, flick the channel or the station, and not only does no one care, no one on the other end is any the wiser. 

But a live person telling a story needs to concentrate, and in order to cast a spell she needs the audience to also be concentrating. 

There is a reason we watch movies at the cinema, in the dark, with noise cushioning carpet and curtains: we need our attention focussed in order to fully enter the imaginary world. 

It is the same in a live storytelling event.  We can and do recover from interruptions but sometimes it plants a seed of distraction in the mind of those present, including the teller, and the spell is weaker or lost.

Now I don’t often get to end of my rave, eyes have glazed over, urgent needs suddenly remembered or tension levels so uncomfortable even I know I am doing my cause a disservice to keep going.

I also know that I am too precious about this and in fact story and storytelling and people's attention is much more robust than I think. 

The story can be so powerful, the trance so strong that we see nothing but the images in our minds eye, people can come and go, there can be low level background noise, and so long as there are a few people committed to listening, the teller can focus on them.  

​But it is not the ideal.

And we do need idealists…right… 

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Tags: personal, storytelling

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Comment by Kate Lawrence on May 8, 2016 at 9:39pm

Nice.  Has the added bonus of reminding people that smart phones really do make us dumb to the present moment.

But I wonder how different stories are?  I used to be happy my kids read a lot but then thought it is the same form of escapism as TV.  And so perhaps are all stories?

i am not saying live storytelling isn't different and there is definitely a cult of easy distraction and short attention that seems top come with our modern living, but I am not sure what the story difference really is yet.

Thanks for reading and commenting Tim.

Comment by Kate Lawrence on May 8, 2016 at 9:29pm

Nice, it is a good reminder of how the smart phone makes us dumb to the here and now.  But are stories so very different - are they not all trance makers.  I used to wonder at my children and their reading books constantly, in the end I couldn't see much difference in that form of escapism and TV. it all took them away.

I think there is a difference in live storytelling, but I haven't satisfied myself what it is yet.

thanks for reading and commenting.

Comment by Tim E on May 6, 2016 at 4:31pm

We used to tell audiences at storytelling events to not record or photograph because it was disrespectful to the performer. Then I started telling them it was disrespectful to the people around them. But recently I have begun to remind the audience not to distract themselves. That a smartphone will keep them from entering into the story, the trance, and the commitment to engage their own imagination in imaging the story.

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