Humans love to tell and hear stories, and every one of us has several of our own to tell. Facebook, Twitter, the evening news, anecdotes we tell at parties–we fill our lives with little stories.
Sports commentators know this; they fill dead airtime between the action with little tidbits about players’ lives. The coverage of the Olympics (which happen again later this year!) does this quite well, and you can bet I’ll be doing at least one article about Stories in Sports while London hosts the Games.
But even better than sports commentators at telling little stories are children. In fact, they excel at it, when allowed. Children at play spontaneously create little stories in many of their undirected activities (and some of them even do so in their directed activities!). Play with a child and let her drive the interaction. Eventually, she’ll almost certainly begin a little narrative and assign you a role; sometimes you might even be told what your role is supposed to be, but don’t count on it! You might never know the story she’s telling herself, of which you are a part, but you can be assured that there is, in fact, a story being told.
As with many parts of society that people reject, we can learn a lot from children in this regard. When we’re kids, society encourages us to tell stories. To use our imaginations. Unfortunately, this means society views storytelling and imagination as child’s play, and as we grow older we tend to give up creating stories and only tell those that actually happen to us.
Society makes us dull.
To Hell with that, I say! Telling stories is what we do, and those stories needn’t always be merely shared experiences.
If you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly interested in telling imaginary stories. In that case, it’s time to embrace the ways we used to tell stories.
Look around. There are lots of opportunities to get back into the practice of telling ourselves little stories. Those little stories will help us when we want to tell bigger ones. They’re practice for us, but they’re more than that; they are also inspirations. Some of those little stories we tell ourselves will eventually grow into the bigger ones we wish to share with other; some will become just parts of those bigger ones.
Most of your little stories won’t go anywhere, but you should write them down nonetheless–even if you don’t share them. Even if they only stay in your journal or your 750 Words account, don’t worry about it. These stories still serve an important purpose. They are practice.
But how do you practice these little stories?
People watching is an excellent way. The stories you create about those you watch can be as fanciful or plausible as you like. It doesn’t matter. Just tell a little story, no more than a sentence or two. “That woman with all the tattoos? A professor of applied mathematics.” “The bald old man? Vampire hunter.” “That collection of teenagers? Theater troupe.”
Games lacking a built-in narrative (like chess) can also supply you an opportunity to tell simple, little stories, as can those with only a minimal narrative (like The Settlers of Catan). Although telling those stories to yourself are fun, it’s even more fun if your opponent(s) join in with you.
There are lots of opportunities to find little stories in our lives. It’s just a matter of us embracing those opportunities.