Monday, June 13, 2005

The Power of Story

I was watching a videotape of a Prairie Home Companion broadcast yesterday afternoon. Garrison Keillor is one of my favorite storytellers and I love to listen to his radio broadcast every week as we drive home from church. To watch a video of a radio broadcast grants you an behind the scenes peek at how it all comes together. I always imagined that Keillor read the News from Lake Wobegon from a script, but apparently he memorizes this long 20 minute monologue each week. As he paints a word picture with his voice you are transported to his imaginary Minnesota town. Watching him speak, a self-described quiet person, you can see clearly he is not a television broadcaster or an actor. As he delivers his monologue he absent-mindedly plays with the buttons on his shirt and runs his finger through his hair like he's thinking alone in his study. And yet the mellifluous tone of his voice and the confidence with which he weaves his story is riveting. Garrison Keillor is brilliant. I long to be able to tell a story like that.

I've recently read through Jan Karon's Mitford Series which is often compared to Keillor's writing with its well drawn and quirky small town characters. Her writing is sweet without being cloying and the world she paints makes me want to move to the hills of North Carolina. Now that I've read all her current books, I am looking for a new writer to feed my story addiction.

When I was an actor, one of my teachers told us that all good actors could tell a story, and there was an exercise where we were supposed to get up a tell a story about our lives. I don't remember it very well, because I think I blocked it out. I've always longed to tell a good story, to paint a vivid picture, but I give up when it cost me something-pride, privacy, pain. Although I've always longed to write fiction, I always stop myself because I fear that I can't make up a good enough story. But then I realize that really good fiction writers are simply tellling the truth in story form and are not making it up although it is indeed a fiction. It's not unlike good method acting--you tell the truth in the scene while playing someone else.

As a minister and teacher, I have a very important story to tell--the beyond all time love story of God and humanity. The unbelievable tale of a Creator who would take on the form of his creature to tell them how to live and die and to pay the price for all the ways they have messed it up for millenia. I minister to college age students-Millenials, Mosaics, Generation Y, postmoderns--whatever you want to call them. And I am stretching to learn how to tell them life changing stories. I am also wrestling with finding ways for them to tell their stories to one another and to build an authentic community of people who tell the truth to one another and invite their friends to know the Truth as well.

As a mom and a homeschooler I read stories all the time to my kids. We use Sonlight, a literature-based curriculum which allows us to read living books to the kids to teach them all they need to know by story, not by the dry rote of a textbook. I've learned so much through my kids' stories--things about the human condition, about redemption and about culture. Children's literature has to tell a good story, because a kid won't sit on your lap to hear a lecture.

So part of this blog--the very random thoughts of a creative woman--is dedicated to me learning the discipline of writing. (Part of it is rants, part of it is thinking out loud on the emerging church, part of it is personal devotional, part of it is just typical blogtastic navel-gazing.) But above all I want to learn how to tell a good story like Garrison Keillor.

Micah Girl


Blogger Lexie said...

Just found your blog through the Carnival at Daddypundit.

Enjoyed this post. A couple of things caught my eye:

*We also use Sonlight because of the books.

*I've been interested in using blogs as a writing tool.

*I'm working on writing about making our story become HIStory.

I guess I just wanted to say, "Me,too!". I'll be checking back.

3:38 AM  
Blogger ~m2~ said...

micah, i love garrison keilor and love jan karon's books - they are both wonderful story tellers that truly transport you with their storytelling.

somehow, after reading some of what you write, i don't think you are far off from being able to transport with your words :)

7:31 AM  

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