Sorry, what’s a story slam?

One of the common comments when I asked for feedback after the slam was perhaps that I should explain exactly what a story slam is. Of course I should, everyone who mentioned is is absolutely right. So, despite this happening the wrong way around I’ll now explain what a story slam actually is so hopefully, come November, you’ll be queuing up to slam your hearts out. 

Essentially, a slam is a live storytelling event. They are often time restrictive – so participants have a limited amount of time to tell/read their story – or limited by word count. Generally, the fast paced nature of slams mean they’re more suited to flash fiction entries than five thousand words of a short story. Again, all entries are usually pre-written so slammers turn up with their stories ready to go, but again following feedback the next WSS may play around with this idea for November – more on that soon.

The idea is to capture the audience’s (and judge/s) attention instantly, and hold it for the duration of the piece. It’s a challenging form of literature, there’s no time for character development, no chance to let us build a bond with protagonists, or let us become embroiled in complex plots. But, it should leave a lasting impression, linger in the psyche like a warm memory or a disturbing image.

Easy? No. Rewarding? Yes, it can be and not just for the writing of it. Reading it out to a sea of expectant faces is a terrifying thought. There’s a vulnerability in reading your own work in public, especially when that work is raw. It’s not been through an agent, an editor to be honed, refined and beautifully packaged to deliver to an established audience. It takes balls to stand up and read it out. it really does, I’ve done it myself and shook all the way through the first time, and the second time.

But the telling of the story is almost as important as the words that weave it together, without intonation, rise and fall, or emotion the best story could still sound flat when read aloud. This might sound like a ridiculous suggestion, but try recording yourself reading something out loud, get used to the sound of your own voice and its natural nuances, it’ll help you with reading your own work.

A story slam needs both the words and the performance aspect to really make the audience sit up and take notice. So folks, now you know what a slam is you have six months to prepare for the next WSS – but to help I’ll be running some special competitions between now and then. Keep an eye on the blog and our Facebook and Twitter pages for more info!

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Freelance writer and media communications consultant. I write, I drink tea, therefore I am. Creator of Whitby Story Slam.

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5 comments on “Sorry, what’s a story slam?
  1. Excellent explanation there! Story slamming is a return to the ‘old way’ of story telling, largely ‘off the cuff’, a little preparation but not lengthy rehearsal, a sort of ‘from my mind to your ear’ thing.

  2. I do similar type of story writing, but on a chat site, or titanpad, and you have to write a post on the fly…and its always great when you do it with up to six people.

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