Ah, the great question that haunts storytellers, old and new: Where do you find a story? It's not a easy, black and white answer. For newbies, it's daunting to even know where to begin. My Community College students have to tell a Folktale as their first story. I have given them a dozen resources on the Web as to WHERE to find stories. But I also have to help them understand HOW to find a story that suits them. They often need a little coaching help.
One student said he couldn't find a Folktale that resonated with him because he is "not like other people. It takes me longer to think and make decisions." I said, "So you feel DIFFERENT than other people?" "Yes", he said. "Then perhaps you could search for a story about a boy who feels different?" He agreed.
In that light, here is a TIP from August of 2013.
Storytellers are repeatedly asked, “Where do you find your stories?” This question is asked by students, just starting out in the community, and also by listeners who seem to be amazed at discovering there is more to telling than reading aloud from a children’s book.
All too often, I have heard the response, “I don’t find stories, they find me!” This is quite an “artsy” response, and one that I have come to abhor! It does the student absolutely no good, and it only persists to mystify the art form.
Tellers have to work hard to find stories that are a good fit. It takes long hours of searching through titles, topics and motifs. And then more time to read through many stories and many versions of the same tale before finding “just the right fit”. So, where does one start?
As always, you start with you. Who are you? What makes you tick? What do you love? What do you hate? What’s your background, ethnicity, heritage? What are your tenets and beliefs? Etc., etc.
Knowing yourself is the first step to finding stories that are a fit. Do you revel in your heritage? Then stories that deal with that is where you start to look. Do you hate injustice? Then tales of justice is a stepping off place. Are you a romantic? Romance is one of the oldest themes in storytelling and there are hundreds of tales to find.
On the practical side, you then have to use resources that can assist you in finding those kinds of stories. The first place most of us go is Google. Not a bad place to start, and it often leads you right where you need to be.
Lastly, other tellers are a great reserve of knowledge. Even seasoned tellers ask each other, “Does anyone know a story about…?” So, newbies, don’t feel shy about asking a colleague where to look for what you need.
I will admit, that occasionally, I hear something or remember a piece from my past that triggers a response and I think, “That story was just waiting to be told.” But for the most part, don’t sit back and wait for a story to “find” you. Get out there and start looking for yourself!