Monday, November 26, 2012

Wherein Hunky McSharing Learns When to Not Tell a Story

My thought this week: please think carefully before you speak the story in your head. With the current faddish approach to storytelling going on, I sometimes see people trying to “share their story” even if they really should not be sharing “that” story.

As I was watching the morning news on Thanksgiving Day (the U.S. holiday), the three jovial morning hosts had a few moments to kill. With that, the young man sitting at the desk, I think his name was Hunky McSharing, said, “Oh, okay, I guess I have a story.”

Now, right at that moment the problem was revealed. He said, “I guess.” I shuddered. Storytelling is always an intentional process. You plan to tell a story and you plan the story to tell. Anytime you start with “I guess” before telling means you are moving into gossip and not storytelling.

Hunky continues to “tell the story” of a Thanksgiving when he was a boy. He talked about how the family had an unexpected guest for dinner. He then mentioned that his mother was not prepared for guests, but it was the family “policy” to welcome anyone at their table.

Here, for just a moment, I thought, “Oh, Sean, always so crabby about the rules of storytelling. Young Mr. Hunky is telling a story about his mother’s kindness and not just gossiping. Shame on me.”

I thought this until McSharing said the next sentence of his story. He mentioned that the man was “kinda heavyset” and that the chair that the dinner guest sat collapsed beneath him. This chair disaster happened twice. Hilarious stuff, isn’t it? Mr. McSharing was clearly entertained by how the large house guest kept breaking chairs at Thanksgiving. You have so many warm and funny memories, Hunky. Just the type you might share at the Frat house.
The two female anchors sitting with Hunky knew better than to laugh at this story. While Hunky was laughing and giggling, his co-hosts sat stoned-face. One of them said, “I don’t think I can laugh at that.” The other host just stared at McSharing as he realized this story was one that should not have been spoken as hundreds of thousands of viewers now watched him mock fat people. A long-for-television silence took place between all three of them.
I know that you keep hearing, “Storytelling is everywhere.” “Everyone is a storyteller.” While everyone has a story to tell, learn what the professionals know: Not every story is to be shared in every situation. Learn to self-edit. The gossip shared among friends is not the storytelling you share in front of crowds. It is better not to tell a story at all than to speak a story that is offensive and damaging to your integrity or to the lives of others.
Please do not fall into the trap of thinking that communication is all about the story. It’s not enough to have a story. Storytelling requires a balance between story, audience and teller. We need to think before we speak. Gossip is not storytelling. Sometimes, we should stop storytelling before we start.
The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach. Photo courtesy of

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Old-School Storytelling Is the Change Agent.

I am a big fan of all the stories, all the time. Personal or folktale, they’re all true for somebody.

 Every generation believes that they invent things like life, sex, spirituality, farting, and relationships. Part of the survival of our species, I think, is to say, "Well, our (fill in the blank) is better than what they used to do. We're changing (fill in the blank) for the better."

There is a fascinating print interview over at  “Arts in a Changing America” blog that talks about the development of the Story Slam (all personal tales) model over the last few years. Shannon Turner interviews Randy Osborne, the founder of the Carapace storytelling event. It’s a good article and, while I have something to add, I think it is a good read for anyone who does any type of oral storytelling. Go on, read it. Then come back. I’m waiting……

My thoughts are below. Buckle up, this is a long one.
Back to “every generation invents…” So it is in storytelling. I enjoy personal storytelling events such as Carapace and The Moth. However, the power in storytelling to generate community, to promote change or development, to talk about the tough subjects (how about a knocked-up Rapunzel?) is not new and has always been in the realm of storytelling. Yes, the film studios have cleaned it all up to sell movies and toys, but those of us deep in the roots of oral storytelling know better. My (respectful and kind) advice to Randy is to get out more to some world-tale storytelling in the real world. There are plenty of us taking the old tales out for visceral-and-cringey spins and never setting foot in a children's library or elementary school as we present unvarnished tales to adults. The schools would get mad at me when, in my fairytales unvarnished, the children cut off their fingers or are forced to have sex with their fathers.   
So, a student had a transcendent moment in anatomy class? Good!  Learning from the dead is not new, no matter how much a modern audience wants to believe it. Dig into an Irish folktale such as "Tieg O'Kane and Corpse" (treat a woman like trash, boy, and you'll have hell to pay) to see that folks have been learning (metaphorically) from the dead for hundreds of years, too. There are plenty of others out there.  There is nothing new and everything new about this discovery that the dead can "speak.” See the homework below if you want another story of the dead speaking.
The role of world-tale storytelling is to put context to the present, grounding it on the path of the past and sending it toddling into the future. Your human experiences have already been experienced in some form (take comfort) and you will add your experience to the mix (take challenge). Your experience then is fodder for your children or maybe even the guy sitting next to your at the Story Slam, slamming too many Captain Morgans. “Resistance is futile.” (Yeah, baby, an old pop reference right there.)
Here's the real challenge- a storyteller who is willing to do the work can interweave a traditional story into a personal tale and put both modern experience and generational wisdom together. Like the older woman in the post, I often leave a modern personal storytelling event with, frankly, nothing other than the shell of the experience. We get to be familiar with people we will never know. Yeah, I laughed or maybe felt misty while a personal story was told but then I have nothing. For example, why is it important to know a single storyteller's mother was a terror? Outside of empathy for the teller, their story alone does little for the listener, but if it is put it in context of how the world has viewed horrible parents then the audience has something to hang on to and chew on. Or, put it in the context of your horrible mother and a world-tale where the mother is more nurturing and now the audience can have some confidence that their singular situation may not hold true for everyone...and in that there is hope. And, full of expectation, that the dialogue in the audience member's head becomes real conversation with trusted friends (or therapist) who can help.
Gossip is temporary. Storytelling is catalyst.
Comfort in things unchanging is only for the old? There is a Sacred Success Trilogy in these personal telling events like this. For best success, be sure to mention Sex, Drinking or Bad Relationships...just like the young people of every culture before you. Just because the Grimm Brothers couldn’t, in their culture, say that Rapunzel wanted some “booty calls” does not mean they didn’t use the cultural language for “booty call” in their stories. None of this is new as you find all these things in fairytales and folktales across cultures. None of our generations invented any of these things. I find great comfort in that we generations keep reinventing the same wheel. We are part of a whole that, paradoxically, does not change even when we’re changing it.  Cool.
As a side note, when The Moth was first emerging from the cocoon, they did make contact with us at (Yeah, we're old.) I am sorry to say that at that time the “traditional storytelling” community wasn’t ready to hear what they had to say and the slam community wasn’t ready to hear what was being said to them. We all missed the boat (or at least paddling together) on this whole “new” concept. I find myself now delighted in the success of The Moth and slams like it. These events, fun on their own, are a good way to introduce people to the greater concepts of what story and storytelling can do…just as people have known for centuries before us.  
Oh, and those stories about farting? Dig into the Arabian Nights. It's not about magic carpet rides alone.
P.S. Here's your homework: listen to Hawaiin storyteller Jeff Gere do his adult storytelling thing and take you to school. The dead speak (another story) in track #2. Find it at There's no pretense or formality in his work, only skill and a deep love for the truth of world-tales.

(7/12/2012 update: The author of the original piece (Shannon): "I do want to point out, though, that Carapace is very intentionally not a story slam. Randy speaks to that in the interview, and why Atlanta has chosen not to do our event in story slam-style." So, way cool that Shannon answered and I am happy to add this clarification.)
About the  Author:  Sean Buvala is a professional storyteller and author (and slam judge) who rarely tells cute stories with morals to children. He’s much better in business situations helping people connect their stories to the business or nonprofit organization at hand.  He’s also the creator of StoryRise that brings solid “traditional” storytelling to adult audiences, clearing up the myth that fairytales are all about helpless princesses. His Storytelling 101 manual is a great place to learn the “how” of storytelling if you are done being overloaded with storytelling theory.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sean Buvala, Storyteller with Extra Searchiness.

Yes, here it is, the Sean Buvala, Storyteller, Google search video. Now, I know you have been thinking, "How can I best make a my life just that much easier?' when along comes this silly Google project. Much fun to be had by all, as they say. (giggle)

Now, see don't you feel more pep in your step? Toe-tapping music, no? Okay, back to your regular blog surfing now.
The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

No, I Don't Want You Drunk On Emotion. (Response to Fast Company Article)

Yikes. A "master storyteller" does not want an audience "drunk on emotion."

Over at the "Fast Company" website (major business magazine), there's a poetic but off-base article about business storytelling: "Why Storytelling is the Ultimate Weapon." Take a read of the article if you'd like. Here's my reaction. I posted it on the FC website but the formatting went wonky. Here is a clearer picture, adapted from my comments I posted on the FC site:

To put my response in context: I’ve been thinking about this article from the perspective of a storytelling professional. That’s biz coaching, story performance and authoring books for some 26 years. I’ve been working with online discussions of storytelling since before Google even existed.

It's a good article on the science of storytelling overall. After that, I am not sure what to think. I don't know what this article adds to the "business storytelling" discussion specifically, except more theory. And, as I experience it, there is more than enough business storytelling theory floating around. Let’s be much more practical and put out some serious how-to versus more emotional-focused poetry.

If I am reading this correctly, the article is filed under this site's category of "Industry POV." I don't see an exclusive business POV here. Substitute "education,” “health care” or “babysitting" whenever the word "business" is mentioned and the article still works. Maybe use the words "teachers,” “doctors” or “low-paid teenagers" for the word "professionals," too. This could easily have been about “storytelling in education” in the NEA magazine instead of business in the Fast Company magazine. Maybe it was just poor placement by Fast Company that leaves me so underwhelmed.

I do struggle with the author's well-intentioned closing. Discounting the use of logic/facts in trade for (insert soft music here) narrative really damages the truth of what story can do. The purpose of story (real-life, world tale or fairy tale) is to carry logic and reason, not to replace it. I mentioned this earlier in a response to another poster: my goal as a storyteller (in any situation) is rarely just an emotional response. Oh, sure, I can achieve that when it’s desired. However, what I want is to go beyond the emotional with a longer-lasting (but slower in forming) lesson, meaning or message. Emotional response is more a feature of good theater or acting techniques. However, storytelling is not acting, including when used in business settings.

This takes me back to: "master storyteller" does not want an audience "drunk on emotion." I actually think this is rather comical.

Insisting (as I think I see in the article) that we *must* begin with "once upon a time" for every audience all the time discounts the very nature and work of a storyteller in the boardroom or on stage. As a storyteller, my experience teaches me to know both when to lead with a story and when not to. Being mindful of story placement is a real skill.

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Monday, April 30, 2012

New Project "How to Write an About Me"

Here's my posting of a couple of videos for my newest project "How to Write an About Me." I've created a multi-media training kit with a .pdf ebook, four webinar-style videos of about 10 minutes each and the audio-only mp3 files from the videos.

If the kit generates enough interest and sales, I will have transcripts made for the videos as they have an idea or two not listed in the book. When I get talking, ideas pour out. I get requests for "I need to write a bio" rather frequently and thought this story-infused approach would be helpful for my guests and clients. It's rather straight-forward in my No-Nonsense approach.

At the moment of this writing, the kit is a download for just $7.00. That price will change soon. Get yours at this launch price if you are interested. Details at .

Here is a sample clip from one of the videos.

Here is the promotional video we put together to post on Youtube.

I'd enjoy helping you create your next About Me bio for your projects and websites. Come grab your copy of this affordable resource.

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The New "No Nonsense Storytelling" Webinar. Freebie.

I'm doing a freebie webinar next week. Isn't it time you shook up your storytelling skills? Visit Allow our video to bring you your pipe and slippers...

****** The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.