If you listen to blues songs, you will discover that amongst the angst, the stories of “my baby done packed her suitcase and caught the midnight train” (they must have amazing rail services in the USA because all the trains seem to depart at midnight), and being down and out, there are some real glimpses of a deeper Truth, with a capital “T”.
Take, for example, Muddy Waters’ heartfelt pronouncement,
“You can’t spend what you ain’t got,
and you can’t lose something that you ain’t never had.”
So true. And if the something “you ain’t never had” is the inspiration that comes from listening to incidents and insights from other people’s lives, then as a writer you are, dear reader, missing out.
Spark London is an event at which people tell stories --true stories -- that involve themselves. But story-telling? What has that got to do with technology and writers?
Well, Spark London is a podcast too, which is how I first came across it. This week I simply decided to attend the live event instead of just waiting around for the next podcast episode to be published.
I’m glad I did. Even though I write mainly non-fiction, I am interested in story-telling techniques. I am, you might say, interested in creative non-fiction writing. But the experience would be useful for writers of fiction too, for the following reasons.
The stories provide material for the writer
Obviously you cannot simply steal other people’s experiences without permission, but you could certainly use them to explore aspects of living that you may not have considered before.
For example, one person at the event talked about his big hands. That’s something I have never thought about previously, except in the context of musing that, had Beethoven not had such big hands, maybe his piano music would have been easier to play.
The strapline of Spark London is “Connecting people through stories”, but of course you can make connections with other people simply by turning up and talking to them!
I met the host for the evening, Dave Pickering, whom I found out runs an event called Stand Up Tragedy (which I must get to one of these days).
Dave introduced me to Sonja Todd, who it turns out hosts some Spark London events. Sonja told me about Dave’s podcast called Getting Better Acquainted, in which he interviews “ordinary” people. I’ve listened to one and a bit podcasts and found them very engaging.
Sonja also told me about another podcast called Answer Me This, which by all accounts is pretty good, and therefore on my “must listen to” list.
And Sonja introduced me to her friend Charley Lucy Harrison, a comedian, resident blogger of Stand Up Tragedy, and host of Spark London. She made the video below about Spark London. She is also the host of a comedy club she founded called See You Next Thursday.
Ya gotta admit: that web of connections would probably make the basis of a really interesting story in itself.
Firing up the imagination
What I was not expecting at all was discovering that I have had the creative side of my grey matter exercised even by the events that, unfortunately, I am unable to attend. For example, I can think of a really humorous story I could relate about Fame, which is the theme of a forthcoming event.
It’s good for toning
The challenge of every writer is to avoid being too verbose. For me, one of the distinguishing features of good writing from poor writing is that the latter will have more than its fair share of extraneous words or phrases. Like “actually”, for example: it is rarely needed, as neither is that “for example” because I had already written “like”, which means exactly the same as “for example”!
Well, when you have a time limit of only five minutes in which to relate a story, you have to choose your words carefully, which is a good skill for writers to develop.
If you’re serious about writing you must listen to Spark London stories on their podcast. If possible get along to one of their events too, or seek out a true story-telling event where you live.