How To Know When You've Been Told A Great Story?

Text & Photographs By Alan Mettert  © All rights reserved.

Have you ever come away from hearing a truly great story wanting to tell that story to all of your friends? Have you ever found that no matter how many times you tell that story, you never quite seem to get the response out of it as when you first heard it? I am here to tell you that every person who has ever stepped foot into the woods or into a boat has a story like this. Everyone who has an appreciation for the outdoors has a story to tell that is just his, and no one else's. When he tells his story, everyone listens because they know when the story truly belongs to the teller.
The story itself does not have to be one-hundred percent fact, and the story does not have to be recounted exactly how it happened. The only criteria for telling a really good story are that the storyteller has to believe that it happened just the way he is telling it and there has to be some semblance to the actual event. A story does not have to start out as being a top-notch event, and at first, there can even be multiple skeptics who do not believe that your story happened just the way you said it did. The classic story of "the big fish that got away" are merely building blocks for good fishing stories. The beauty of the story comes when you have a newcomer drop in and listen to the story. If the new guy or gal hangs on every word you say, then you have just added one more person to the list of people who want to retell your story.
The more people who try to retell your story, the more legendary your story becomes. I have been in certain company before where I could not leave without insisting on hearing one of the great stories from someone who could really tell it. Some folks are naturals at telling a story, and by the second or third time they tell the story, it has already been added to the gamut of great stories that are out there. Then there are those who have a really hard time telling a story. This kind of person can sit around a card table or a campfire for hours listening to really solid outdoors stories and never be able to come up with a solid story his own. However, the time will come for this type of outdoor trooper. It will come when he least expects it. One day he will be out hunting or fishing and something truly spectacular will happen to him. No matter how badly he retells his tale, there will be a genuine solemnity to his tone that will make the others in his company believe that they have been told a truly great story.
Some people, on the other hand, do not have to work hard to tell a story that will go into lore as a classic. There are just some people who have a certain knack for retelling a story. These are the people who can recreate another guy's laugh, stare, or even demeanor. When these people stop and tell you a story, you can imagine every single detail of their story. You can imagine that every person in his story not only exists, but you can imagine that the people in his story are sitting there with you; he creates the story as plain as day in front of you, and you leave amazed, wanting to hear more. With good storytellers, it is hard to walk away from a conversation. It is difficult because you know that whatever you do with the rest of your day, it probably will not be as entertaining as listening to a truly good storyteller. I can't think of one television show that can hold a flame to hearing a good outdoors story.
The craft of telling a good story is truly unique to those who can do it. The people who can really capture and recreate a good story are those who are keen observers of human nature. When I hear a great story, I want to believe that the other people in the story are actually there recreating it for me. I want to sit uneasy in my seat because the teller of the story recreates a story so well that I believe that the story happened word-for-word the way it is being recounted. The guys who make the voices sound like the people you know and make the story fit the personality of everyone involved make it a real joy to listen to. These people are few and far between. I have had the privilege of knowing a handful of them in my lifetime, and they are all amazing people. They all have a craft for making you smile and remember people you haven't seen in a long time. Often times they make you think about people who have passed away, and you could swear that they are right there with you. The feeling you get after you leave these stories is what separates them from others.
When you hear a story that you think about later that day, then you have heard a good story. If you wake up the next day and are still thinking about it, then you have been told a very good story. If you go through many years, however, and that story keeps popping up in your mind, then you have been told a truly great story. A great story is not great for the immediate effect that it has on you, but rather for the lasting effect that is created as you recall it over time. If you are sitting at a campfire and a story pops into your mind that you heard ten years earlier and you just have to tell it, then you know it is a truly great story. This makes a great story not something that just happens, but something has a lasting effect on you. A great story will stay with you forever, and like a good wine, will only get better as the dust collects on it.

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