Thursday, May 21, 2015

Crafting 101: Putting It Together!

There is a difference between crafting a story and just getting up and telling one.  Pretty much anyone who isn't afraid of speaking in public can get up and tell a story of some kind.  We share stories at weddings and funerals.  We share them during worship services, and amongst friends.  We share them on the radio and television. 

In this series of Blogs, I will look at a single story, and show the process I use to get from my first exposure to a tale all the way to the finished structure.

This is the sixth entry in the series.

The Pot Maker and The Tiger - The Story

1. Crafting 101: The Questions I Ask

2. Crafting 101:  Building The Structure

3. Crafting 101:  Flesh On The Bones

4  Crafting 101:  Donkey's and tigers and War Horses, Oh My!

5. Crafting 101: There Are No Little Characters...

6. Crafting 101:  Putting It Together

7. Crafting 101:  Introductions!

For the first five posts in this series, we have been prying the story apart, trying to figure out what is in it, and what to do with it.  

We've stripped out the main characters, investigated the themes in the tale, played with the supporting staff, and tried out a number of sounds and characters.    

We've torn up the pieces and thrown them into the hat.  Now, we must reach into the mess, and magically pull out a whole story.

This next bit of work is the point in any recipe where the instructions are, 'season to taste'.

1.  The first step is to actually tell the story from the beginning to the end.  Make sure you time it.  How long has this story become?

2.  Next, begin to edit out things that bog the story down.  After you've played with a story for a long time, you will end up with things that don't actually belong in the story.  Decide, based on how the story feels, what could be eliminated without taking away from the tale.  Editing is key! 

3.  Keep telling the story as a whole, and begin to shape it.  In the case of the Pot Maker and The Tiger, I decided that I wanted to think of each scene in the story as a different beat.

So, I begin with, 'Once there was a pot maker....
I introduce the tiger like this,  'Now, at this particular time during the Monsoon, there is a man eating tiger roaming around the village....
I introduce the Raja, 'So many people told the tale of the pot maker catching the tiger that the Raja came to hear of it.
I introduce the warlike Raja, 'Now, not long after that, a warlike Raja from a neighboring kingdom
Now the horse, "And that's how it came to be that the pot maker woke in the morning to find a soldier with a giant black horse standing in front of his house.
Winding down, "When the warlike Raja woke in the morning, he discovered that his entire army deserted in the night.

Because of all of the zaniness in this tale, it feels to me as if it needs to be told in short episodes.  I end each beat, give the audience a break, and then go into the next bit of foolishness.  It gives the audience a rest.

4.  Having worked out the beats and how those beats transition into each other, I can decide how long each beat needs to be.  Again, you must edit each beat so that it is tight, and tells the story with the kind of whimsy or seriousness you mean to bring to the tale.  Shorten the conversations, tighten the language.

5.  Finally, I need to figure out a way to button the story.  This means that the end of the tale acknowledges the changed situation in the story.  As a storyteller, I like to make a comment on the tale as well.  This requires choosing the theme in the story that most speaks to the story you've crafted.  Different tellers will find different things that shaped their tales.  I end the story sort of like this: 

And so, after all of his big dreams, he'd finally gotten what he thought he'd always wanted:  he was rich and famous.  He was also extremely bored.  He stayed at home being rich and famous for two days, then, he got up, got on his donkey, and returned to the factory.  He spent his days making pots and telling stories with his friends.  He spent the evening in the tavern.  He walked home because his donkey freed himself and went home.  What he realized is that he was already doing what made him happy.  Being rich and famous has nothing whatsoever to do with being happy with yourself.

6.  With my button in place, the frame stabilizes, and the introduction begins to take shape in my mind.  The tale itself, and my take on what it means gives me a clear cut way to begin creating an introduction that will meld with this tale.  

7.  Continue telling the tale, letting the theme of the tale shape the story so that it begins to melt into the beats of the story.

The pot maker is not the only character who has big dreams.  The pot maker is not the only character who learns to be glad for what he already has.  The pot maker is not the only character who is relieved to get back to his normal life. 

There is nothing more frustrating to me than hearing a tale where the teller misses the obvious connections between the various things going on in the tale.  You don't have to make them overtly, but make sure you at least know what they are.  You might be surprised how this knowledge changes the tale.

8.  Make sure that you have included explanation for some of the words, phrases or terms that your audience might not understand.  Decide how you would handle such things in performance.

9.  The longer I practice the tale, the tighter the verbiage becomes, the more solid the characters become, and the time it takes to tell the tale settles to within about a minute every time I tell it.  This story runs about twenty five minutes.

Almost Ready For The First Trial Run!  I just need some finishing touches.

Next week will be the last post in this sequence.   

Adding The Introduction!

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