The storytelling workshop began the way it always did, with an explanation about how we were creating a story that would be posted online where others could read it. Sometimes the storytellers understood what this meant; other times, they didn’t. This week, they did understand, as was evidenced in the final lines of the story, “Do we want this end? No. Let’s leave them in suspense. We have to wait until the next episode to find out what happens.”
The increased awareness of an audience gave the storytellers a greater sense of cohesiveness and community than we had experienced during other workshops. The storytellers seemed to be united in communicating something more than a surface-layer narrative. The actions of the characters sustained interest and suggested that the authors were crafting a satire.
The storytelling prompt was a painting of a queen, jack, and king dressed and posed in playing-card style. The images you see in this story were provided by Contributing Artist, Heather Lockwood, who read the story but did not see the original storytelling prompt.
Blood on His Sword
Not too much. 1, 2, 3. Yes, I can. Scientific news. Is it the same picture? I spent the day on the main division, so I don’t know.
Oh, it’s a couple of fighters from the mid-time, mid-terms. They are fighting because they are mad at each other and everyone else. They got themselves involved. That’s for damn sure, in the middle of the ages.
Evidently he is in love with her, and he wants to get to her, but the father is standing in between saying, “No. You are not of royal blood, so you can’t marry her.”
What happens next?
Oh it is always something good.
Two boys. The King will kill him. That’s bad. You got it. A bunch of idiots fighting and a woman running.
He’s just threatening. He doesn’t have the nerve to whack him one. He’s too old. He is making one last stand to protect his daughter’s virtue.
She is completely unconcerned about the whole thing. She doesn’t give a hoot’s ass. She’s in love with herself. There is nobody in the world who can compete with her, to make up to what she is. Certainly not that little pipsqueak over there with a bird on his head.
He wants to attract attention. This is the only way he knows how to get people to like him. He puts a bird on his head, and when the bird talks, everyone think he’s talking. Well, just look at him! He is bowlegged, and he doesn’t even know how to play that instrument he is holding.
She says, “Why don’t they go away and leave me alone. I don’t like either one of them.”
The King has blood on his sword, because he scratched his ear. He has so many clothes on that we can be sure he didn’t scratch anywhere else.
She knows someone else will be along in a little bit. Daddy is doing his big thing, protecting her. She has good sense, so she will go as far as she can, away. She doesn’t want to get involved with that mess. She can run fast, with her legs as far apart as paper.
I don’t blame her, with two swords. If I were her, I would hide under the bed, too. Wow. You-how-you! There she stands in the middle. I would run my legs off. That is ridiculous.
That’s my husband. He is going to get some money.
I don’t think the King has money. They didn’t show a tissue. I didn’t see one. When they went home, they took the money. He went home and just left her there. He said, “You just do it yourself.”
She has the money! She’s not going to give the money back to him! What the heck? He bought that to pay her off.
She can do anything she wants. Goodbye. Oh yes. Oh wow! She is independent now! She will go everywhere she wants. She hasn’t made up her mind yet, so she will try them all out first. She likes someone attentive, flat out honest with her, pay attention to her, provide her with everything she needs, everything she wants. Everything she wants but doesn’t really need. Unlimited money. She makes sure what she is buying is worth it. She can return it someday and get her money back. She is a pretty smart girl.
The King is going to buy a Queen for the King. For sale? That’s terrible. I said that? I lied. I missed that.
The middle one has his arm on it, getting her away from number three. Get away from him, huh? Think I will stand there with someone holding that damn knife far up high? Heck no.
He can have as many Queens as he wants as long as he can afford to keep them. Oh yeah, he has enough. That is a typical father-in-law attitude.
The guy in the middle wins!
She is long gone.
The other one isn’t moving. Do we want this end? No.
Let’s leave them in suspense. We have to wait until the next episode to find out what happens.
In several scenes throughout the story, the characters were caught in situational irony. For example, the suitor in the painting we used for a storytelling prompt had a bird on his head. By appearance alone, the character had an air of polished confidence. His square shoulders, arrogant expression, and fancy clothing suggested that he was someone who demanded respect. He held his head high, and a bird rested on the edge of his fancy red hat.
Yet one of the storytellers employed sarcasm, identifying this character as “that little pipsqueak over there with a bird on his head.” Explaining that the irony of his appearance, she said, “He wants to attract attention. This is the only way he knows how to get people to like him. He puts a bird on his head, and when the bird talks, everyone thinks he’s talking.” So the typical hero, with the creative spin of Invisible Poets, became the antihero.
The King was elaborately dressed. But, like the “pipsqueak,” the storytellers did not want this character to conform to idealistic standards. Instead, the storytellers crafted another delightful example of situational irony. Although the King’s sword was drawn, and he had taken a stand, the storytellers decided, “He’s just threatening. He doesn’t have the nerve to whack him one. He’s too old.” But there was blood on the King’s sword, suggesting it had been used in battle. I wondered how they would incorporate this idea with the cowardly character they had created. The storytellers decided that the blood was not evidence of the King having used the sword in battle. The blood on the sword was there because the King had “scratched his ear.” One of the storytellers took the already-hilarious idea a step further, adding, “He has so many clothes on that we can be sure he didn’t scratch anywhere else.”
Our small group of all-female storytellers crafted an amusing reprimand of the historical female stereotype, making the King’s daughter, although a damsel in distress, a character who did not think of herself as a frail, objectified person. The storytellers continued to contrast the appearance of the people in the storytelling prompt with the reality of the story they were developing. The King’s daughter was “completely unconcerned about the whole thing. She doesn’t give a hoot’s ass. She’s in love with herself. There is nobody in the world who can compete with her, to make up to what she is.”
During this storytelling session, the participants sustained a linear narrative form almost the entire time. First this, then that. Cause and effect. The story had an introduction: “Oh, it’s a couple of fighters from the mid-time, mid-terms. They are fighting because they are mad at each other and everyone else. They got themselves involved. That’s for damn sure, in the middle of the ages.” The story also had rising action, a climax, falling action, and a dénouement.
“Blood on His Sword,” was a story told by participants who seemed to grasp the idea that other people would be reading their stories. Is that why this story was one of the most organized of all the stories they had told thus far? What are the implications? Is audience awareness somehow related to cognitive improvement in storytellers with Alzheimer’s and dementia?
Though I cannot claim this with certainty, discoveries almost always begin with a hunch and a stirring.