The final class of the three-week Art and Craft of Storytelling for Writers at Casa Libre included a fabulous mini-performance. Each student created, prepared and rehearsed a 7 to 10 minute story. They had rehearsal time in class and time on their own to practice their stories alone or with someone else.
There are many ways to work out a story and one way is to hear yourself say the story over and over. Not only do the concepts sort themselves out with repetition but the rhythms become apparent. I have a few ways I do this and most of them are (or can be) embarrassing.
When I was telling a story at Porchlight in San Francisco I took a long walk around the Berkeley neighborhood where I was staying, saying the story aloud quietly to myself. The slower I walked, the slower the words came; as I picked up the pace with my feet, my breath and speech got faster. After about a half hour I came out of my reverie to realize that I’d been emulating a crazy old lady wandering the streets rather aimlessly, muttering to myself. I was glad that I didn’t know any of the people I marched past sitting on their porches wondering about my sanity.
I told this to one of my students and she suggested that if I held a phone to my ear I’d look like everyone else who carries on one-way conversations in public. Brilliant!
Another way I like to practice is while I’m driving. I recite the story when I’m alone in the car; the passing scenery seems to be conducive to the flow of the story. Of course, I’m alert to the traffic around me. Maybe the combination of being aware of my surroundings and being in the story are similar to being on stage and being sensitive to the nuances of the audience. Again, passing motorists might think that I’m talking to myself (which I really am!) but I like to imagine that they think I’m singing along to old rock and roll music.
How do you practice your stories?