Reprinted from Tell Me Something Good - Oral Storytelling Blog, (with permission of the author...Me!)
1: a vessel used for melting a substance with a high degree of heat
2: a severe test
3: a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development [My note here – a good story!]
“More weight.” These are the last words of Giles Corey in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. He was “pressed” with heavy stones to make him confess to crimes of witchcraft. Each time he cried out, “More weight.” And the last stone crushed his chest. – Now there’s a story!
And there’s the problem!
Most of us believe that we have to have gone through some sort of tremendous, terrifying, earth-shaking, life-changing “crucible” in our lives before we can craft a good story. (Read Marian Giannatti’s post about "who would listen to my story")
But wait…here’s the good news. Personal stories are not just about the horrific, larger-than-life, oh-my-god moments. They don’t have to be like that. And here’s the best part, they probably SHOULDN’T be like that!
Those “I shot the sheriff”, “I was a foreign spy”, “I fell into the volcano” stories may be interesting to hear, but they are not the stories that most of your audiences will be able to RELATE to. And that’s the real key to a good personal story. It should be universal and relatable.
Universal means that your story is about widespread, common feelings; emotions that most people have experienced and can say, “Yeah, I’ve felt like that!” That’s what you want. You want them to nod their heads in acknowledgement and think, “Yup, for sure, I’ve been there!” Not that their own experience must be exactly like yours, but the more they can relate to the feelings and metaphorical situations you share, the better the connection between them and you.
So, for storytellers, the real crucible is coming up with a simple, relatable story and crafting it in a way that will connect with your audience. Themes of falling in love; falling out of love; unrequited love (do you see a theme here?); the joy and fear of the first day on a job; the desire and uneasiness of wanting to fit in and be accepted; overcoming the fear that you are a fraud. Overcoming those internal struggles can be even more daunting than falling into that volcano!
These and other seemingly ordinary struggles to survive may be the ones that have been quietly resting inside your audience, ready to be awakened and perhaps enlightened by your story.
Don’t think you have to have climbed Mount Everest; tell us the story of how you conquered your fears by climbing Piestewa Peak. We’ll be there with you, all the way to the top!