To tell a well-told tale...

I’ve often wondered what it is about that special someone who can regail us with a jolly good yarn. Have you ever listened to a person who, no matter how dull the actual story or boring the facts, can recite them to you in a way that captures your interest and imagination without parrallel?

See, there’s this guy I know who possesses this very skill - and I want it. Whatever mundane confessions he is rambling about, he always seems to make them sound so intrinsic in thier plot, so insightful and so - for want of a better word - cool .
I feel this because even when he tells someone else something relatively pointless that happened to us in the day (whilst in front of me), I can see the aforementioned strangers eyes light up with interest.

Do you know someone who possesses this ability?
What qualities do you think IYHO go into making a good “story teller?”

I’m an excellent storyteller, and my answer won’t be helpful at all: I find it more instinctive than anything.

If there’s a consciously identifiable technique, though, to what I do, it’s that the instant I decide to tell a story, I have a firm grasp on the core of it, i.e. the reason I think the story is interesting and worth telling. It’s a “thesis statement,” in other words, if you want to call it that – the basic principle that the story is designed to illustrate. It’s not just a collection of events linked by location or cast of characters or whatever: there’s a simple unifying concept.

Then, when I tell the story, I can keep everything related to it. I don’t even need to say it out loud; the story just hangs together naturally because it’s clear in its conception. Again, I don’t decide what the core is; it’s largely instinctive. And my listeners don’t need to know where I’m coming from, because the fact that I’m working from a foundation is subtly conveyed by my storytelling attitude. They know that the story will eventually come together, and that I’m not going to wander around in unrelated tangents, so they listen throughout.

This has been true since I was a small child. My grandfather used to make up “Popeye” stories for me and my brother at bedtime, and, quite frankly, his storytelling skills suck. I always found the stories he created unsatisfying, and as a tactless seven-year-old, I had no problem telling him so. “No,” I’d complain, “Popeye has to fail a couple of times, he can’t just pull out the spinach and win right away.” I didn’t know anything about formal story construction; I just knew that the story didn’t work, and I could point to why.

Now, of course, I have an education and vocabulary that can be used to express those concepts, and formal plot analysis tells me that my grandfather’s stories lacked conflict, reversal, and all sorts of other elements that make stories compelling and interesting. But even with the labels, I’m still not sure I could explain why I know – beyond the unifying concept mentioned above – how to keep a roomful of people spellbound with a twenty-minute narrative, while my brother can’t.

Let me ask you, how avid a reader were you when you were seven? How about now?

Are your stories always imaginary, or do you also tell tales that happened (with your own conceptual spin, of course)?

Do you find good communication skills (such as excellent grammar and good written English) are a boost for your skills?