One of my loves as a writer of fiction is when I have the opportunity to tell stories, that is, with my own voice, in my own way, without worrying about grammar and punctuation, to an audience. I seem to have a knack for it, and I can get quite animated. What I really love is seeing all the captive faces and watching the emotions change as I form the story. It’s a whole different ball game from when you sell books and the only feedback you get is when the occasional reader takes time to tell you what they thought. I don’t know what you would call this kind of storytelling. If I were a comedian, this would be stand-up comedy, so I guess stand-up storytelling is as good a term as any.
I had the honour of being invited to a local primary school last Thursday to talk about writing. I planned to tell them a particular story – a scary story that I’ve told many times to other kids aged twelve or thirteen. I figured the primary sevens (aged ten) could handle it. So I drew them along, watching their transfixed faces as I told them the terrible true (ahem) story of the trapdoor in my house. A great time was had by all.
I was invited back again this morning to present certificates to children who successfully completely a reading challenge called “Team Read.” I had arranged to tell another horror story to the primary sevens. Imagine my surprise when primaries six, five, four, and right through to one, all filed into the hall.
Looking around at all those innocent doe-eyed kids, I thought, “Oh heck. I can’t tell them this story. They’ll have nightmares for weeks. But I don’t have a backup plan. I’ll have to go ahead.”
So I told the story of the murderous stalker who taunts a friend of mine until he kills him by fear. To my surprise, the room filled with laughter. When I mentioned the way the stalker stood still and stared out from inside his fur-rimmed parka, they giggled and laughed. When I told them about how I knew my friend was dead when I saw him through the window, because his eyes were wide open and staring, the room erupted in laughter again.
Well, it wasn’t the reaction I expected, but it was great. Man, kids are just weird sometimes. 🙂