I come from a storytelling culture. We don’t hold events for children in libraries but we do tend to see amazing things and to want to recount them. Given a chance we will tell every incident in the form of a story. Some people call it rambling and want us to get to the point but we think they need to slow down, smell the roses.
We think nothing, nothing at all, just happens. Everything has Characters and Intrigue. The bottom line has no punch without the journey.
This is just a news bulletin:
“I met a coyote in Wegman’s today.”
To make it a story, to make it interesting, I need context, color, plot.
“So I was in Wegman’s,” I say, “minding my own business, picking up some kale.”
That’s the Ordinary World, which I need to establish to make what happens next mean something. I could embellish at this point, if I think the story needs it:
“You know how I love kale. I thought I might sauté it, or make that delicious kale salad Michael Symon likes so much.”
(It could get worse – “I would never buy the asparagus now. It is so not in season.” – but I might lose my audience.)
“And I looked up and there was a coyote next to me, eyeing the celeriac.”
That’s the Call to Adventure. Something extraordinary is happening right in front of me and I have choice: rise to the occasion or walk away. This is an important part of the story and I want my audience to know it. So I draw it out a little.
“I went over to the produce manager, who was restocking the turnips.
‘Excuse me, sir, but there is a coyote over there. He seems to be buying broccolini. What should I do?'”
The produce manager at this point can either be a Mentor – “He always buys broccolini but he really wants celeriac.” – or a Gatekeeper – “What coyote? I don’t see a coyote.” Either way this is good for the story. The Mentor gives advice that will further the adventure. The Gatekeeper denies there is an adventure happening or warns us away from it so we have to commit.
“So,” my story continues, “I pretended to need some parsley (which is next to the broccolini) and I said, casually, to the coyote,
‘Celeriac is very odd, don’t you think?’
“And the coyote said, wistfully,
‘I don’t know how to cook celeriac.'”
Will I do it? Will I invite the coyote to my tiny apartment for a dinner of Celeriac Remoulade and Steak Frites? Will he offer to bring a nice red Bordeaux?
That’s story-telling. Story-listening is for another day.