Tell a Story


My husband and I were watching the amazing group Stomp on Netflix live streaming the other night (if you don’t have a Netflix account then you need to get one because it’s awesome). We’re both big fans and even had the opportunity to sit on the third row of one of their shows in Dallas a while back. So while he, seasoned drummer was wigging out over the mad percussive skills, I was sitting nearby, experiencing another aspect of their talent.

Now, if you know Stomp (and if somehow you’ve been living under a rock and not heard of them, click here for a sample), I know what you’re thinking: the way they make music without using any actual instruments is highly innovative. Who else could come up with an entire song (including melody) using rubber pipes? But that’s not my focus at the moment. I was watching the video of the same performance we saw in Dallas, but this time something was different. It was me. I wasn’t a writer back then, but I am now, and this new perspective cast the show in a different light.

It’s about the Story

Ask yourself – why is Stomp able to fill up huge auditoriums and entertain an audience for hours without a single word? How can they get spectators to laugh, sigh and participate? How do they keep a simple concept – hitting a thing with another thing – from getting stagnant about ten minutes into the show? The answer is that they are telling a story.

Just like a story, their show has characters. There’s the leader – the alpha male, the underdog (often the protagonist) and the joker who provides comic relief. The plot may not be very deep, but it’ll have you rooting for one guy and by the end of the performance you’ll be cheering when he gets the best of the pranksters who’ve been tormenting him the entire time. The show has scenes that begin with an introduction (albeit informal) and follow a gradual increase of intensity until reaching a climax and then a dénouement that ties it off nicely (often coming full-circle back to the beginning).

Paint a Story

After my second experience of the show, I took away one important idea: people crave a story. They don’t just want to watch people jump around on stage banging barrels with sticks (unless they are percussionists), they hunger for something that reaches out to who they are on a deeper level and touches their own fears, desires and emotions.

If you’re a writer, you know this already. It’s kind of a “No, duh.” But what if you’re an artist or a musician or a scrapbooker? Can you use your paintbrush or charcoals to visually weave a tale? Can you write a song (with or without lyrics) that lets the listener feel the emotions of something that extends beyond the notes? Can you create an anecdote that tells your life (or someone else’s) using just photos?

What do you think? What ideas do you have about how to tell a story, other than in writing?

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