At last Saturday's "First & Last" concert, a colleague asked how I felt about trying to "copy" another storyteller. My first response was to say, "That depends on your interpretation of the word copy." Then we got into a really good discussion.
When we see/hear another teller and we love what they have done, it is not uncommon to think, "I love that. I wish I could do it just like that." Sometimes we try to emulate what they have done. It usually doesn't work very well. The outcome of the discussion was a general agreement that, "When you try to be someone else vs. being your true self, disaster ensues.
The bottom line for me is that when you tell a story, you reveal parts of yourself. Many of these parts may show up in very subtle ways. The story you choose, the way you choose to craft it, change it (or not), the way you use your voice, your body; these all say something about YOU. Even if or when you decide to TRY to copy what another teller has done, in that "copying" you are revealing something about yourself.
When I admire something a teller has done, I ask myself some questions:
How did they make me feel? ... How did they do that?
Did they paint a picture that I could see in my mind? ... How did they do that?
Did I understand the essence and the flow of the story? ... How did they do that?
Did the beginning engage me? ... How did they do that?
Did the ending come to a clear conclusion and satisfy me? ... How did they do that?
I then have to ask myself, "How can I use myself to accomplish those things?"
All of this also means that a storyteller needs to know who they are, and what skills, talents, hopes, fears, joys and abilities they have to translate any material they have read or seen or heard into a story that they can make their own!
The search for great stories and your best self to tell them go hand-in-hand!