Tall tales, fisherman’s yarns, campfire monologues, whatever term you use, the stories that we tell about our adventures in the outdoors are part of the reason we venture into the wild to begin with. In a world before computers, the Internet, and even before books, storytellers told tales of hunting and fishing journeys to their families and friends. It is speculated that the first stories ever told were stories of outdoors exploits, the paintings on the cave walls themselves may be proof of that.
There is perhaps nothing more exciting than to be under the spell of a seasoned storyteller. But good storytellers are few and far in between. This is because it takes practice to tell a proper fisherman’s tale. To wield a story in a manner that captivates all those listening, you need action, nuance, resolution, and every now and then you may need to stretch the truth. Here are some basic guidelines and parameters to help you tell a true fisherman’s tale the next time you are around the campfire.
Yeah, the new-upgraded-supercalifragilisticexpialidocious iPhone can take some pretty great pictures. The next model and the one after that will be upgraded and the pictures will be even better. But pulling out your fancy space phone and spouting off a few words that describe a picture (high resolution or not) is not storytelling. A good storyteller can paint pictures with words. Above all remember this, it isn’t what happened in your story that matters. It is the way in which you tell what happened that matters. Ditch the technology. If you have to use it to show folks because they don’t believe you, show them after the story.
This word gets a bad rep. The correct definition of hyperbole is an exaggeration that is not to be taken literally. But that sort of definition is terribly confining and outdated. The working sense of the word hyperbole, when it comes to storytelling, refers to the depth and emotional texture used in storytelling. If the bear was big, describe how the size of the bear made you feel. If the fish was fought like a whale, describe the way that a whale fights on the end of a fishing rod.
Things like running, climbing, shooting, or suffering often accompany a good story. No one wants to hear a story that doesn’t have a form of conflict. You job as a storyteller is to catch imaginary fish, shoot imaginary rifles, fall off imaginary cliffs and gesture your way into the minds and hearts of your listeners. Use your hands, use them sparingly not frantically. But use them.
Confidence in contagious and it is your job as a storyteller to win the trust of your audience. They need to believe in you, particularly if you are the hero of your own story. Keep eye contact. Take a moment to meet eyes with your listeners and keep your gaze upon them.
Alcohol in responsible amounts helps to loosen inhibition in your listeners. If you are around the campfire and have some of the old strong stuff with you, pass it around before your story. This tends to provoke the laughter and honesty that the best storytelling sessions are made of.