The Moth Radio Hour is an inspiring radio program featuring personal stories. It can be found on many NPR stations. As a nonprofit, The Moth aims “to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.”
We memoir writers can learn much from The Moth – by listening to the stories on air and by reading the new book, How to Tell a Story (2022).
After putting the book on hold at my local library, I finally got my turn to read it, and it was worth the wait. I’m excited to tell you about this book which includes 1) Everyone Has a Story, 2) Developing Your Story, 3) Telling Your Story, and 4) The Power of Story.
Yes, the book is about oral storytelling as opposed to memoir writing. But there is much overlap.
I will highlight some takeaways from How to Tell a Story.The book is dedicated “To the undiscovered stories in all of us.” And, the authors state that the telling of these stories allows us to connect at a deeper level.
The first section, Everyone Has a Story, begins – “While your experiences are ephemeral, your stories can be eternal.” The authors say, “Stories are the currency of community. They tear down walls, unite cultures, and help people realize they are more alike than different, all the while celebrating what is unique to you.”
They add, “When you craft a story, you hold each piece of your life up to the light and say, ‘Yes that mattered’ …”
The section, Developing Your Story, has many helpful tips. For example, they suggest that a storyteller focus on a specific time frame – a single scene or perhaps a particular week, month, or year. Another tip is to look for the meaning of the story. You may begin by saying, “This happened, and this happened, and then this happened.” But go further and ask, “Why is this story important? How did this change me or help me realize something?” You might be tempted to end with the words, “I’ll never forget that.” But try to go a bit further: WHY will you never forget that?
The section, Telling Your Story, is focused on performance. Even if your goal is a written piece, look for opportunities to share your stories out loud – perhaps at a family reunion or holiday gathering. Here’s a useful tip: If, while telling your story you are suddenly overcome with emotion, don’t try to squelch it. Rather, pause and let the emotion run its course before continuing. Such moments do happen and they speak to the power of storytelling, regardless of what shape it takes.
Finally, The Power of Story speaks to the ripple effect of storytelling. Stories can bring about positive change and even launch movements. But a story need not be huge, historic, or dramatic. Every story takes on a life of its own while forging a path for others to tell their stories.
The book closes with these words: “Your stories matter. Tell them. We’re listening.”
Challenge: Think of a memory you would like to share. Talk about it with a trusted friend or relative. Then write about it. We would love to hear about your experience! Please use the link below.