Writing Excuses 9.45: Tools for Writing from Oral Storytelling

M. Todd Gallowglas is a writer and a storyteller who has spent years doing traditional oral storytelling at renaissance fairs. He joined us at FantasyCon/Westercon 67 before a live audience and talked to us about how this tradition has informed his writing, and how these principles can inform our writing as well. He also schools us (okay, mostly Howard) about how these principles should be informing parts of our podcast.


Take the book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and drill down into the nitty-gritty realities of pancakes falling from the sky.

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl

13 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 9.45: Tools for Writing from Oral Storytelling”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful, informative, and most hilarious ‘cast.

    When I read the title of today’s episode, I went: Ooooh yeah.

    Because, frankly speaking, all I expected to hear was: Words, words, words words, words words words, words …

    Instead, I learned what I could have doen better in my first blogpost, last Friday, and what may well be the most valuable lesson ever for my blog writing: The hat pitch.

    With a blog post, you don’t want money into the hat, but comments, because the whole purpose is to foster discussion, and that starts with the first comment.

    It makes a lot of sense that it will be more effective to solicite them all the way along with provocative questions, rather then asking for comments at the very end of the post.

    I will also mention the great things I will discuss in the respective next weeks post far earlier, which should work well since I schedule the posts to have some logical sequence . (Does that process qualify as “using wit in a segue”, Dr. Lecter?)

    You, and especially Todd, taught me a lesson.

    Thank you.

  2. Hey Timothy,

    Thanks for the kind words, and I’m very happy to have helped you look at some new strategies for your blog. Drop me a line sometime and let me know what you choose to implement and how it goes. I’m still trying to figure out applying the psychology of the “hat pitch” to stuff on the internet.


  3. Weird that I was planning to go to the library today and check out Name of the Wind.

    That said, while listening to his podcast I never consider the hat pitch could apply to blogs in this way. I’m still in the process of building content and viewership, I definitely need to keep the hat pitch in mind. I will be re-listening to this episode many times in the upcoming weeks and months.

  4. Thanks for another informative episode and for showing story telling via another lens. The idea of the hat pitch is easy to visualize and more likely to stick in my head. I also the mention of the story, within a story, within a story as a it applies to what I am writing now.

    Just thinking out loud here but in the scene in World War Z, where the doctors were huddled around the monitor watching Brad Pitt, and the camera showed you his ‘framed’ action it felt more intense to me – I wondered if it was because I was watching it on TV and could therefore put myself in the place of the doctors place drawing me a step closer to the story. I had jotted that down wondering if in writing, using a similar device -mirroring the reader’s action, would draw the reader deeper into the story.

    Anyway back on track… I also thought the discussion regarding controlling or directing the reader’s attention via what the character was focusing on, and the sentence structure was interesting and something I’ll want to look out for.

  5. @’nother Mike – Reading the transcript was really interesting. Just goes to show that what might be engaging conversation/dialogue in real life doesn’t always translate well into print.

    @Clare K. R. Miller – I think one of the hallmarks of great storytelling/performing in any medium is to draw your audience in so completely that they can’t bring themselves to turn their attention away until the whole thing is wrapped up. That’s especially important in writing a series of stories, whether novels, movies, TV, when the audience gets a break between installments; you have to make them come back for the next one, no matter how much time passes.

    @Burt Abrue – That technique is also used in the first Scream movie. I think it would be interesting to see if something like that can work in written fiction. The closest books I can think of where that happens are Name of the Wind and Middlesex, where the protagonist is recounting their background and it might not be completely reliable.

  6. Actually I think Howard’s rapid delivery is the best way. The podcast is the main draw. In podcasts when the ad gets longer you know what I do? I hit the 10-sec skip button. Give the book, and the site name, and get back before the listener can even skip the ad. Of course take the time to talk up the book, but get it done fast.

  7. Burt, that’s a fascinating article. Thanks for sharing it. I’m going research that more, not just for consideration in writing, but also how I can utilize the concepts in the hat pitch.

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