I’m preparing for my Friday panel for BlogHer Food on storytelling. As food writers, we are all storytellers, even though we can’t exactly say how we do it.
So I turned to some experts to tell me: What, exactly, constitutes storytelling?
“Storytelling passes on the essence of who we are,” say members of the National Storytelling Association. “Stories are a prime vehicle for assessing and interpreting events, experiences, and concepts from minor moments of daily life to the grand nature of the human condition. It is an intrinsic and basic form of human communication. More than any other form of communication, the telling of stories is an integral and essential part of the human experience.”
Whoa, sounds like this definition was made for blogging.
Now, what makes a good storyteller? I think it’s someone who can elicit emotion: you feel sad, uplifted, or inspired upon reading a good story. Someone who makes you laugh or think. Someone who knows how to draw characters and situations so well that you feel like you’re watching a movie because their images are so visual. Someone who knows how to write a beginning, middle and end, with a crisis thrown in for a story arc.
BlogHer Food judges selected these two storytellers for the panel, with me as moderator: are Michael Procopio, author of the blog Food for the Thoughtless; and Rebecca Crump of Ezra Pound Cake. While their styles are different, they’re both wicked funny.
Procopio writes long posts about his life and incorporates recipes at the end. He complains about how, upon serving hot cheese to a customer at the Greek restaurant where he works, the man asked him to set the cheese on fire. Then adds a recipe for making hot Greek cheese (sans flames). He riffs on the Liberace cookbook, upon hearing that the Las Vegas Liberace museum is closing, in a post titled Liberace’s Sticky Buns.
Crump’s pieces look like straight recipe posts, but when you read them you realize she is no ordinary food blogger. There’s a wink-wink element to her posts. Not everyone can pull off such lines as, “This pie is naughty. The kind that will spank you without using a switch.” Or she ends a recipe for pumpkin streusel muffins with “So if you want something more like a pumpkin-flavored Hostess Cup Cake, double the cream cheese filling, and send me one.”
How do you know when you’ve read a great story? Are you captured by it, held hostage to the end? Who is a great storyteller, and why?
p.s. If you’re attending BlogHer Food, I hope you’ll say hello.