Storytelling (including running with zombies)

We went to a local storytelling event last night. There were about six storytellers, telling stories over the course of most of two hours (with a 15 minute break). They served beer and wine, but we’d been to Whiskey Wednesday, so we didn’t get further alcohol.

There’s an active community of storytellers in town. As a writer, I’m extremely aware of the difference between writing stories and telling stories, and I’m endlessly fascinated by storytelling. The stories I write in English wouldn’t lend themselves to telling (although they read aloud okay). But the theme of the events (monsters and dragons) reminded me of my first Esperanto story, which was about monsters, and it occurred to me that story would probably work for telling pretty well.

Somebody ought to get some Esperanto storytelling events going.

This event, which was in English, was pretty cool. They had a good number of children in attendance (drawn, I suppose, by the monsters and dragons theme). They’re talking about making a monthly thing out of it, and I just might make my way downtown to listen to stories on a regular basis if they do.

Speaking of storytelling, I’ve been continuing to use Zombies Run when I run, because I enjoy the storytelling aspects. (And I am enjoying hearing the story unfold, quite a bit. I’ve got quite a bit more to listen to, but I’m already looking forward to replaying season one. In particular, I’ve been playing so far without zombie chases, and I’m sure adding those will change things enough to make it extra-replayable.)

Not really related to the storytelling aspect, but interesting to me, is that using the game has had an impact on my training runs.

The game is set up to give you training runs about 30 minutes (or about 60 minutes). The story is divided into 5 or 6 audio clips that dramatize the story. Between each pair of clips, the game plays 1 song (or 2 songs) from your running playlist.

Early in the season like this, my fitness improves almost every run. (Especially because the weather often makes it impossible to run day after day, so I’m getting my recover days in.) Normally what happens is that I’ll find a distance I can run at my current level of fitness, and I’ll run that distance pretty often for a while, until I get fit enough to run further. (Later in the season I mix it up more with a weekly “long” run.)

In years past, at this point in the season, I’d be running my regular 2.2-mile loop for most of my runs, and my times would be gradually improving.

Now, though, all my runs are about 30 minutes. But, as my fitness improves, instead of finishing a standard length sooner, I’m running for a standard period of time and having to run further.

The last two runs there was still story to go when I got back, and I ended up having to run around the apartment complex. In order to be sure I’ll have finished the story by the time I’ve finished my run, I’m going to have to start running a longer route! (The game has a feature for making sure that a route that runs longer than an episode doesn’t leave you bereft. It’s called “radio mode” it goes on playing stuff from your playlist, still alternated with audio clips, but these audio clips don’t try to advance the story. They just provides some local color. So, if you finish a mission, but end up running another 10 minutes to get home, it switches seamlessly to those bits.)

Once the weather improves a tiny bit more, and I’m running more days per week, I’ll probably ease up just a bit on my all-zombie running, which will make it easier to mix up the distance a bit more.

Maybe I’ll also practice telling a story in Esperanto.

Storytelling cycling class

Yesterday I heard something unique and fascinating: A group cycling class instructor fashioning a story around the cyclists’ workout.

The group cycling classes at the Fitness Center take place in a room that is reached by walking through the room with mats where I do my ab and back exercises and do my stretching. The arrangement is pretty unsatisfactory, because the cycling class’s music is not only far too loud, it’s also a poor match for my cool-down-and-stretch purposes. Still, it gave me the opportunity to hear this.

I only caught the end. Where I came in, the cyclists were carrying a backpack and were being pursued by someone faster but less nimble. They had to ride really hard for 20 seconds, then ease up and make a sharp turn just ahead of the pursuers, who blew on past and had to regroup. The cyclists got a short respite, then had to ride hard for another two minutes to reach the safe house.

I don’t know who the pursuers were—it sounded more like spies than like zombies (which would have been my choice, but then maybe the instructor had used zombies last week). And the cycling instructor sounded more like a coach than like a storyteller—a real writer could have included rather more telling detail and provided better characterization for the bad guys. But it was still cool.

I’ve seen a few attempts to turn exercise equipment into video games, and of course I build stories around my own workouts all the time. (I assume others who exercise do as well.) But this low-tech application of using old-fashioned storytelling to enhance a workout—using what was essentially a paid storyteller—was new to me.

If it catches on, maybe there’ll be some new job opportunities for writers, at least writers who are very fit.