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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

The art of storytelling

An evening with friends constantly proves one thing; we are all natural born story-tellers. Get any group of people together and part of our attempts to connect with each other will inevitably be telling a story. Recounting the times when we were at our most foolish, vulnerable, best or worst. Or better still, when absent friends were at their worst. The objective?  Usually to amuse one another or out do the previous narrator with an extension of the ‘facts’. The mantra “never let the truth get in the way of a good story” never more relevant than on nights like these.


I spoke recently at the Canberra Writers Festival and focused on the influences on my writing. One of these was the importance of the power of story-telling in my own family. It was usually, and unfortunately, at funerals that the majority of stories were told. Wakes, not services, the venue for the best re-telling. Often these stories had been told over and over, embellishments expected. Most designed to elicit a laugh, not at the expense of the departed, but as a real connection to the joy they bought into our lives. The story of us, of those we have known and still know, constructs a framework that informs our present. We partially learn who we are and from whom we have come through these stories. I must admit I’m inclined to weave elements of the ‘family tales’ into my novels and short stories. And friends are not safe either-some of your antics may just be revealed at some point too!


I love to watch people telling stories. The connection to the event is evident in their faces. The ridiculousness, the hilarity or the relief is visible in their facial expressions. The pain sometimes too. Spoken story telling is an art form; a most unappreciated one. And yet, for most of us, one that we engage in without really knowing that we are contributing to most ancient of arts. From the cave we have been miming, dancing and eventually verbalising the events of life to teach, engage and amuse one another.


I encourage you to tell your story. Record the tales of your elders; don’t let those incredible family narratives disappear with the passing of the previous generations. Write them down or add captions to photos to preserve the detail. I know we all imagine that the lives lived out on Facebook will record the events forever, that the many recordings of our antics will suffice to tell the tale of us. But nothing serves the human soul better than the re-telling of a story passed down one generation to the other. These are the stories that are preserved somewhere in the human heart and connect us to the past and to each other.

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