July 10, 2011

Origin Stories

There were stretches of my childhood when I was really interested in comic books-- but not obsessed. I never had to read any particular title, and my ragtag hand-me-down collection mostly had science fiction and war comics. I didn't follow any one superhero.

But there were anthologies of comics at the local branch of our public library that I would read again and again-- these were the ones that told the origins of the superheroes: the stories of how they became who they were. I read about Peter Parker getting bitten by a radioactive spider, and Bruce Wayne seeing his parents killed by a mugger, and Bruce Banner being exposed to gamma radiation. I'm sure I read many more stories about Spiderman and Batman and the Hulk, stories with fantastic adventures and incredible supervillains, but I recall few images or scenes from them.

But these characters' respective "creation myths" --I can still recall them decades later.

I've been thinking about this lately, because a few weeks ago someone asked me how I became a storyteller, and I told them my origin story:

When I was a freshman in college, I took a children's literature class. And one day the professor told us we would be starting a unit on oral literature, and we had a guest storyteller (an upperclassman) who was there to tell us a story. So he began to tell us a traditional ghost story. Now I was a theatre major at the time, and I could see that this person at the front of the room didn't have any stage presence. Wasn't using a memorized script. What could I possibly learn from this guy? I thought.
But there, in a classroom, under bright fluorescent lighting, in the middle of the day, as he told us the story, the class grew hushed. We were all caught up in the experience. And when the ending came, that storyteller scared the living daylights out of us.
There's something to this storytelling, I thought. And so, a few years later in my college career, when Rives Collins started offering a storytelling class, I knew I would be taking it.

I asked on Twitter, and I'll ask again now: do you have an origin story? What called you into storytelling?