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The Great Storytellers

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The Storytellers

Aesop is well known among readers as one of our great storytellers all time. Maybe the earliest superstar storyteller. People remember Aesop’s fables forever but did you know he was a slave? Yes, one of the greatest storytellers of all time was a slave in ancient Greece.

He must have been an amazing storyteller because his stories weren’t written down until hundreds of years after he told them but people still remember them. How? How did he do it? While we don’t know what made his tales so memorable as he told them, we do know what makes his stories memorable and I’m going to break it down for you.

**Here is one key:

When we tell a story the areas of our brain that we would be using if we were doing or experiencing what is in the story are activated by hearing the story. Those areas are not engaged when you only hear facts or descriptions. Remember that one. It’s huge. Don’t describe, engage them in your story. Help them experience it.

Aesop wasn’t alone as a great storyteller. Storytelling is natural to us. Do you have a story for us? Let it out. You can learn how to tell a great story here.

Modern storytellers

Here is a video of a great storyteller explaining why it works and how you can use it as a great tool for your business or anything.

other than those few ever faithful teachers usually fit into these categories: actors, writers, comedians, bloggers, businesspeople, salesmen, social media addicts, parents, librarians, and some politicians, but, you know what? We are all storytellers, and we can become great storytellers.

There are people with tons of talent out there that can do almost anything and many of them make great storytellers, but, you don’t need multiple talents to be a great storyteller, but I know what you do need. Stick with me and I promise to teach you how.

I’ve always felt like a storyteller

But just that. I’m just a pure story addict. It’s what I love about books, movies, comics, the stories are what I care about and telling them is like a drug to me. Some people are just amazing storytellers. Such as Steve Jobs, Steven King and so many more. I bet you didn’t expect to see those two names side by side when talking about storytellers. Read on and find out why they do line up.

My mother pushed me into storytelling. It helped me survive my babysitting duties. She made me babysit my little sister and I told her stories. It kept her quiet. I ran out of the few stories I had memorized and began to make them up on the fly. I was hooked on storytelling at that point. I made my sister laugh. That’s addictive. Soon I was telling mom stories, she loved them. She loved everything I did though.

Moms and 3-year-old kids who love their older brother will like whatever story we tell them so I’m quite sure my stories stunk in the beginning, but after 50 plus years of telling them, I may have improved a bit. Let me explain how.

Painting of Mark Twain

Great Storytellers Are Hard To Forget

Steven King creates unforgettable characters and puts us right in the story. Steve Jobs engaged us in his stories so we feel the same things he felt when it happened to him. Jobs’ keynote speeches are famous.

Aesop is credited with many fables or stories that he very well may not have written simply because of human nature. After his death he remained popular and as his legend grew other good stories were added to his collection and rode his wave of popularity. Some stories may have been taken more seriously because of the association.

But some of the best stories were so memorable because of the message or moral. His story The Ant and the Grasshopper had a message that has been debated and altered in revisions to tell a different side for what may have been political reasons. A hungry Grasshopper begs for food from an ant when winter comes. He is rejected. It is assumed Aesop wanted to teach the virtues of hard work and planning for the future.

A very conservative moral in today’s terms. It is strong common sense, however. Some have altered or retold that same fable to express how much better it is to show compassion and charity. However, in the original, the grasshopper sang all summer instead of preparing for winter and had to then beg for food when winter came.

That seems to clearly indicate Aesop’s intent was not to teach charity but common sense and hard work. It isn’t completely clear however because other versions of this fable were added to the collection of so defined Aesop’s Fables with different messages. Some had the ant as the bad person and the grasshopper as the victim.

Crafting a Story For Affect

Affect is to cause an emotional reaction. This is what you need in a great story. Help them live your story.

Nonetheless, I use this story only to relate the reaction to Aesop and his storytelling ability. He crafted and told a story so well it is still used in today’s world. We’ve all had times when we didn’t do the work and suffered the consequences. So we can relate to the story.

Some would say that Aesop’s fables all contained simple human nature morals. The kind that we all know by a certain age from living through them, but I think it’s important to continue to read these stories to our kids so maybe they won’t have to learn some of the lessons the hard way.

The Ape and the Fox is another great example of basic human nature told in a simple but effective way. Someone may appear to be the right person for the job based on loud-mouthed self-promoting dialogue but once in power, their inability to govern even themselves becomes clear.

Not wanting to make this a comprehensive list of Aesop’s fables I’ll stop there. I just wanted to illustrate why his work was so memorable and how you can do that same thing.

What does your audience need to know? What do they want you to teach them? Find a basic way to make a little fable for them. Make it engaging; let them feel the same emotions you did when you thought of it.

Tell me what your biggest obstacle is to overcome with storytelling.

Do you have a story to tell about your own experience telling a story? comment and I’ll get back to you fast. I always do.

I hope you become one of our great storytellers all time.

Next Part of the series is the Grimm brothers-

18 thoughts on “The Great Storytellers”

  1. Though I have never considered myself a storyteller, I have had many people that I know say different. I guess when I hear the title Storyteller I think back to those authors who’s book I had to read for a high school test in that oh so boring English Literature class.

    But when you think about storytelling it is very much the same as writing website content or blogging about a passion you have. Writing web and blog content is just another form of communication, and most people tend to story tell when communicating to some extent.

    It is said that in order to write good website content you need to engage your website readers with the story you are communicating to them. I try doing this with anything I write. What about you? – Did you catch that? I like asking questions because it gets your readers to engage in the reading process.

    1. You are a storyteller Robert. Your friends are right. Yes, I agree those old Literature classes were boring. It’s a shame that they couldn’t find a way to liven them up because we may have more great stories to read if they had been. I became a writer despite them. Great stories and storytellers had already become a big part of my life by then. I don’t see how a young boy can be exposed to stories like Moby Dick, or 2000 Leagues Under the Sea without becoming deeply connected to storytelling.
      Connecting storytelling to website content is important. So many great business-people use storytelling to become successful.
      I agree it is important to engage your reader. Why would they remember your site or story otherwise?
      Let your inner storyteller out for us to enjoy your stories.

  2. I have never considered myself gifted enough to be able to write a story. However, I suppose in a sense I do with my blog. I tell stories of places traveled, so I am thinking maybe I can write stories after all. There are so many talented authors, and to compete with them is daunting of course. But I have always had a few in my head that I feel would end up as a great novel. Never know I guess, until you give it a try!

    1. I believe we were all born storytellers. We told ourselves stories when we played. It’s just natural for humans if we keep practicing that skill. I would suggest you not think of your writing as competing with the other authors out there. Just tell your story. The books I love to read are the ones that don’t write like English lit majors and they tell it from the heart.
      Here is a great place to begin writing stories.
      Thanks for your comment and reading my post.

  3. There is a big difference in just reading a story and getting the audience to immerse themselves as you read. I can remember my schoolteacher reading a story to us in class and i was absorbed, but when someone else started to read there was nothing. Reading a story is an art form just like a good movie, it either grabs you or it is very dull.

    1. I totally agree with you, Andrew. So much goes into a great story and the teller needs some skills also. It is learnable though. My plan is to fill out the lessons so anyone can become a great storyteller if they wish. I have an article here that someone can begin with to learn storytelling.
      Thanks for your comment and taking the time to read my post.

  4. Great website and content. It is so important to get folks to “engage” in the story as it not only get them involved, but it also opens a window within their mind to access answers for which they may be searching. All the Best.

  5. Every week I have a 1 hour radio show called Walking Wandsworth. Each week I talk about an interesting walk that I took earlier in the week. Sometimes I think that I’d like to change things around a little bit and instead of talking about an actual walk, I’d like to tell a story about a fictionalised walk. Maybe it could be a walk through a real place, a place I’ve never visited or a walk through a fantasy world. I think that would be so interesting and if I set the challenge I’d have to create a 1 hour story each week. Very soon I’d have enough for a couple of volumes of books! Your post inspired me to give that a try.

    Now just imagine for a minute that there is a global catastrophe and all the works of film, art and music are lost. Do you suppose that the survivors of that catastrophe might re-tell stories to their youngsters, stories that were told to them by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas or J.J. Abrams?

    How many new stories that they never even told would be attributed to them, just to make sure that the kids is this post apocalyptic world grew up understanding good values and morals. Maybe Steven King’s greatest work hasn’t been written yet, it will be come the apocalypse!

    1. That sounds like a new kind of radio show. I encourage you to try it. Allow your mind to float away to that magic place of wonder in your own thoughts and dreams. Take a journey. Enjoy. I bet you are right about storytellers if there was a catastrophe. You have a lively imagination. I bet your shows with the imaginary walks will be great.

  6. Love your website. Just yesterday I was looking for story telling information. I can honestly say, your website was so much more inviting, attractive and information much more exciting and interesting. Thoroughly enjoyed the video.
    I have a story I am writing now and its missing life and to me needs a defribillator lol
    I’m following your site.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. Sometimes I go watch videos from other storytellers to gain some new tip or bit of wisdom. We are all storytellers with something to say.

  7. Hi Paul. Aesop’s fables were, and still are, my favorite of all storytelling. I didn’t know he was a slave. And yes, he absolutely had to have been a great storyteller in order for people to have remembered his fables. I didn’t know there was a reason in the brain that allows people to remember stories long after they’ve been told.

    Your site is magical. I love the theme and the pictures. But just as importantly, your words are magical. Thank you for your contribution.

  8. I have found a lot of similarities between storytelling and songrwiting, and your article definitely highlights those similarities.

    I have found with my songwriting, however, that I tend to rip off ides all the time from other writers. As a result, I feel that my writing is ingenuine and derivative. Is there a way to make a story original, while still deriving ideas or elements from “the greats?”

    1. That falls into that age-old category of “It’s all been said before Junior” But guess what? It has never been said by you has it?
      Of course we all ‘borrow’ from other successful artists. It’s unavoidable for me to write without the influences of my favorite authors popping up in my stories. That may be all you’re dealing with.
      If all you listen to is Bob Dylan who else would you expect to sound like? I say if the work you feel isn’t original then some artists have had a serious impact on you.
      You always hear about a new up and coming singer or author and often they tell you the people that influenced their style. Just make sure you aren’t writing it down word for word or you may become known as the Milton Berle of songwriting. Just kidding. Thank you for the comment.
      As for your question “Is there a way to make a story original, while still deriving ideas or elements from “the greats?”” The answer is yes. What I do to combat that is reread or in your case listen to the artist again and get the feel, the emotion that grabbed you out of it. Take that and rewrite that scene or song part as if you were experiencing it right now. the style may be similar, but the words will come out different. Heck people can’t tell the same story the same twice in a row. Relive the story.

  9. Great to know about Aesop and also about the storyteller’s skills. It is one of the unique articles I’ve ever found on the internet. Very interesting article. Thanks

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