Storytelling an artform for all ages

You’ve probably heard of William Shakespeare, but he’s not the only one who can spin a tale. A group of storytellers in the Lowcountry gets together reguarly to work on their own literary artform.

What makes for a good story? Is it the person telling it or the one on the receiving end?

Are good storytellers merely over-the-top actors or must they somehow connect with a receptive audience that buys what they’re selling?

Would it surprise you to know that there is a support group that meets every month to discuss some of these very questions?

They’re known as the Backporch Storytellers and they consider what they do, a literary art form. If you attend one of their meetings, all you’re really asked to do is listen. Talking is never required, unless you want to tell a story.

Many in the group are retired teachers. Some are restless souls who like to travel. A few specialize in ghost stories, some prefer to spin yarns that may or may not contain kernels of truth. There are stories that frighten and others than inspire.

Storytelling is not just for children. It’s for all ages. But what it does require is something none of us seems very comfortable doing these days: sitting still and listening.

A good storyteller wants to capture the attention of its audience. But once the audience is captive, can the storyteller then bring that listener to use his or her imagination to further enhance the experience?

Alexis Reeder attended her first storytellers meeting almost 15 years ago. Her entire motivation, at the time, was hoping to find a way to help her children enjoy learning.

For almost 6 years, she rarely said a word at the meetings. She just listened. Alexis had a fear of speaking in public and was additionally anxious of forgetting her material.

Now to me, that might make for a good story.

But Reeder continued to listen and eventually she felt comfortable talking to groups. What she also discovered is that her love of nature is what she also enjoyed sharing with others. If the storyteller is attracted to the story, so will the audience.

Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. I think there are three other components that make for a good story:

Keeping it simple

Invoking emotion

Making it relevant

There are certainly other avenues to reach a willing listener, but simple, emotional and relevant always seem to be good ingredients.

Where do the Backporch Storytellers find their captive audiences? Schools, churches, festivals, book stores and coffee shops are often fertile locations.

As individual contractors, what they might charge varies.

Once upon a time, as some stories go, the best family yarns were told around the supper table.

Sometimes, those stories were passed down and possibly embellished through the years.

There’s an outside chance newcomers to a family gathering would also be treated to familiar tales while others at the table moaned and groaned while hearing the same, drawn-out narrative for the umpteenth time.

The Backporch Storytellers are trying to preserve the art of telling a good story. They meet once a month at the Red Cross building in North Charleston.

For Alexis Reeder, her experience has certainly produced a happy ending. She joined the group and just listened for half a dozen years. Along the way, she overcame her fear of public speaking and now serves as the current president.

So now you know the rest of the story.

Reach Warren Peper at peperwarren@gmail.com.