What is it that makes a person good at telling stories? Is it just knowing lots of stories, or is there more to it? After all, look at books some are real page-turners, and some are so boring that you cant get passed chapter one. Some people love Harry Potter, other find Rowling weak; some think Stephen King is fantastic, others think hes far too wordy.
Then there are the different kinds of storytellers. Some can keep you enthralled literally on the edge of your seat with just their spoken words. The story flows off their tongue and paints a series of pictures for you a movie playing in your head as well as any film made by Spielberg or Lucas. Others can put pen to paper or their fingers can dance across a keyboard and they breathe life into a story so profound and colorful as to make you feel like you're there, living it.
I think there's something to be said for a gift for storytelling to run in families. My Dad was always one to tell a great yarn; oh, he had stories on top of stories. Wed sit for hours, enthralled by his tales of growing up in Fitchburg, enlisting in the army, going off to war, and of course meeting our Mother. That one, I could listen to any day of the week.
Now, my Mom, on the other hand, wasn't much for telling a story, but she was great at reading me a book, and making things just a little more entertaining than a simple read. Every summer, without fail, one of the first things Id do upon reaching our cottage in Oak Bluffs was to hike over to the library. We had their special summer library card, so it was easy to get it turned on so to speak, and I could start checking out books.
I always said that the Oak Bluffs Library smelled like a library should smell like knowledge, like stories. My Dad would later tell me it was just moldy books. I didn't care I still thought it was cool. Over in a back corner were the books I always wanted, the Dr. Seuss collection and other books for children. I didn't have any of those at home; so I always checked out a couple, the moment I arrived on the Island.
And yes, Green Eggs and Ham was one of my most favorites! Each night, settling down to bed, I usually asked her to read that one to me. Another was Go, Dog, Go! I think because I didn't have a dog, and really wanted one. Shed throw in little touches like pointing out that two of the dogs had a little fender bender with their cars, and another one had insomnia when they were all trying to go to sleep.
As I got older all of eight or nine and considered Dr. Seuss and similar books to be beneath me, I fell in love with my first comic books. My favorite among them was the number one Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comic. It had a story about Scrooge trying to protect his money from the evil Beagle Boys, and I remember still to this day just exactly how my Mother would read it to me; the inflections and tones of her voice. There were those last lines of the comic: I like to dive around in it like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and I like to toss it up and let it hit me on the head. The way she read it, it sounded like sweet notes of heavenly music; I always went to bed with a big smile.
Then, as things do, there came change; change for the good I started to become the storyteller. My friends and I became true comic aficionados. We bought war comics, Disney, superheroes, and so on. No Archie comics though; they tended to have too much mushy stuff, and that grossed us out. Sometimes wed just hang out on one of our porches, or lie in the grass around the Tabernacle and read, but that was kind of dull. After all, we were active children, and how many of them have the capacity to sit still for any length of time? So, I would take each comic, one by one, and read them aloud. Some of my friends tried their hand at it, but they didn't have quite the same talent as I did. My friend Lisa the one female member of our little group always said that I was best at bringing the stories to life. It didn't matter if the character was a German soldier, a talking duck or dog, or an alien creature from beyond the stars; I could make each unique.
Its said that to grow strong, you have to exercise. So, maybe to become a good storyteller, you have to exercise the most important muscle of all your mind. These days, I write movies, TV shows, and novels; I like to think that I got my start back then reading simple comics to my friends, and I was suitably inspired by my parents. And, I also like to think that Ive inspired my own daughter. These days, when she reads Go, Dog, Go! to any of the little kids that come to visit us, she does mention the fender bender and the insomniac dog. So, I like to think Ive carried on the tradition properly.
Will I be the next Rowling or King? Who knows, but I hope that I can at least entertain a few people along the way and make my Mom and Dad proud.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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