Telling a story at Tenx9 Nashville? Here are ten editorial guidelines for preparing your story for our event.
Firstly – thanks. We’re delighted. Tenx9 is a night for ordinary people to tell true stories of their life – not fiction, not fable. So, thanks for lending us your story. Here on this page are ten guidelines for preparing a compelling, Tenx9-suitable story. They are simple, but we make sure to ask everybody who tells at Tenx9 to read and practice these.
We love stories and we love real stories. It’s wonderful, after a night of Tenx9, to realize how easy it is to remember a real story. We know that lots of people, following a Tenx9 night, talk with each other about the stories they particularly remember, the surprises, the sad endings, the funny bits…
You’d be surprised how often we must convince people that it’s real stories we are after. Sometimes folks want to:
- Give a live editorial on a theme.
- Offer a thought that’s got no structure.
- Talk about a theme, but without telling a story.
- Tell a story so they can convince you about a political, ideological, religious, or moral topic.
- Try to get you to join their group.
- Have a platform for speaking in public.
Tenx9 is not for those, it’s for stories – real stories told in less than 10 minutes, stories with a start, middle, and end (although not in that order necessarily!) We want stories that have the listeners wondering “What happened next?”, “Why did she do that?”, “Who is that character?”, or “That character sounds just like my Great Aunt Myrtle.”
1. Make sure you are telling a true story. Sounds obvious – but just make sure you’re not going on a rant, or delivering a manifesto, or giving too much analysis. Tempted to tell two true stories in your 10 minutes? Our experience has shown that this can slump.
2. You don’t have to write your story – you’re welcome to tell it, or sing it, or dance it… just make sure if you’re ad-libbing that you can keep to the point and not waffle. Sometimes ad-libbers have fabulous beginnings and endings but the middle slumps a little. More often, they seem to have great openings, sufficient (though perhaps disjointed) middles, but weak, disappointing endings.
3. Remember that we at Tenx9 Nashville can help you in editing. Write it out and send it to us on tenx9nashville(@)gmail(.)com and we can make suggestions. If it’s your first time, we really recommend this.
4. Cut out scene or theme setting introductions! We’re serious about this. If the folks listening aren’t asking “why did that happen?” or “I wonder what happened next” or “I wonder who that person is” by your second sentence, you’re story is not what it could or even should be. In fact, it may not even be a story! Please make sure that you are telling us something about what happened, as opposed to reading a live reflection piece on a topic.
5. If you’re mentioning a person, and that person might be embarrassed to be identified, use a pseudonym. (Obviously, if you are exposing the person, it’s best to tell the story to a lawyer, not an audience at Tenx9 Nashville.) On the subject of names, if your story involves lots of characters, make it easy on those of us who forget names quickly. For example, instead of talking about Jack, Joe, Bertha, Margaret, Sam Hill, and Petunia, think perhaps about how you’d help us remember who you’re talking about – e.g., the builder, the dancer, the teacher, the vampire, etc. You get the drift.
6. You don’t have to give every single detail – the best stories just drop the listeners right into story without having to give the listeners every single detail. But we love some helpful context! A good, succinct exposition — think “setting the stage” — can be useful to get the audience situated in the narrative.
7. A good opening line is a great start. Use the opening line to bring the audience right into the story. Remember, your ten minutes start from the moment you get behind the microphone. A bit of anticipation can help you hook us from the get-go: “Once, I saw a side to someone I had never seen before. But I’ll get to that. I had known this girl for a few years. In fact…”
8. We ask all our tellers to be respectful of the diverse audience. We often say we are neither prudes nor crudes. If you’re telling at Tenx9 Nashville, we ask you not to unnecessarily offend, but not to overly sanitize either. Be warned, though — we will stop your story if the content is offensive, hateful, objectifying, or overly crude. So, keep this in mind while you’re preparing it. If the story couldn’t be told on public radio, then it’s unlikely to be suitable for Tenx9. We have a wide variety of people there and while we love juicy, intimate stories, we can’t have stories whose main point is sexual. We try to balance telling the truth of our stories with providing a welcoming space for all. We ask you help us toward that goal.
9. A good ending is important too. For instance, at a recent Tenx9, one fine storyteller finished her story about the marginalization and unwelcome she and her brother experienced in her family by chronicling some of the final moments with their difficult mother: “She looked up at my brother and me, the black sheep, who were there caring for her, and said, ‘Am I in hell?’ My brother relied, ‘Not yet.'” Though certainly tragic, it was a damn fine ending. We knew it and she knew it. Having a good ending also helps you know where you’re going.
10. Ten minutes is about 1400 words – maybe two and a half single-spaced pages at 12 point font. Keep that in mind. We have to be strict about the ten minute limit, so we will ring a bell to make you stop! Your ten minutes starts from the moment you get behind the microphone so jump right into your story. Often people think they’ve been up for two minutes when in fact, they’ve already been speaking for eight. So, if you’re writing, about 1400 words is a good limit.