Storytelling and Writing

Elen Ghulam storytelling Long long time ago in the Middle East, before there was TV or Radio, men would go to the coffee shop to listen to the storyteller. These professional storytellers knew how to stretch a tale into multi-evening events that kept their audience captivated night after night.

Since Graffiti Hack is a story within stories. And my next novel which I am in the process of writing seems to also have stories within stories, although the stories in the new novel play a different role. I find it inspiring to participate in storytelling events. To my delight, I have discovered that there are several storytelling events in Vancouver. Each time I do my best to channel the old fashioned Hakawati (storyteller in Arabic), imagine myself in some ancient coffee shop, ignoring the fact that I am the wrong gender for the task.

These story telling experiences have influenced my writing. Last Sunday, I told a story at an art gallery. The next morning I woke up thinking over the experience, processing all the feedback I got and suddenly Bang! I knew exactly what was missing in my story. I jumped up towards my laptop to rewrite a significant part of it, make it a stronger and more vibrant story …. so I hope at least!

Readings are ok, storytelling is something altogether different. For one thing I have to memorize the story, but then let myself go and be in the moment while telling it. Sometimes the stuff that comes out without thinking is better than the stuff I spent hours writing. Also the instantaneous feedback I get from the audience is hard to measure. I can always sense when the audience is with me, living the experience, and when I lost them. All useful points to keep in mind when rewriting.

Something about the human voice: cajoling, inviting and sometimes repelling. The words look a certain way, but then when I hear them filling a room and watch the impact of them on other people, my perception of them change. Storytelling allows me to hear the musicality of words and rhythms that they bring up. Afterwards I write differently.

Storytelling affects in one more way. Recently when I sit down to write at my laptop, I noticed that I imagine myself in front of an audience. People of different ages, genders and backgrounds. In my fantasy world, each sentence slides off the keyboard and floats in the air between us, until the room is filled with stands and stands of sentences. We all swim in it. Sometimes we are happy, laughing and splashing around. Other times the mood is somber and we all cry together. Suddenly, writing doesn’t seem like a lonely pursuit.

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