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  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Neil.

  • And I'm Georgina.

  • Let me tell you a story, Georgina. Are you ready?

  • Yes!

  • Grandma had always warned me not to

  • look into the mirror at midnight.

  • There was something strange about that mirror, she said.

  • How childishto believe silly stories!

  • Later that night I heard a noise. I woke up, dark and alone.

  • A clock chimed midnight.

  • The floorboards were creaking as I walked towards the mirror.

  • I looked into my face reflecting in the glass, when suddenly -

  • my eye winked!

  • Agh, stop Neil! You're scaring me!

  • Oh sorry, Georgina! OK, let's try another story:

  • Once upon a time there was a beautiful servant girl

  • who lived with her wicked stepmother and two jealous stepsisters

  • Ah, that's better, Neil, and I know this storyCinderella

  • more romantic and much less scary!

  • As you can see from Georgina's reaction,

  • telling stories is a powerful way to connect and communicate with people -

  • and the topic of this programme.

  • Stories help us make sense of the world, which is why we've been telling them

  • to each other for millenniaand why some of the earliest folk tales

  • stories that parents have told and passed on to their children over

  • many yearsare still being told today.

  • According to the novelist Sandra Newman, and other academics,

  • there are seven classic plotlines which are constantly being recycled

  • into new stories.

  • They include 'rags to riches' plots, like Cinderella

  • 'Defeating the monster' plots, like Dracula

  • and other plots such as 'comedies', 'adventures' and 'tragedies'.

  • So, my quiz question is this: which of the following well-known folk tales

  • is a 'defeating the monster' story?

  • Is it: a) Beowulf? b) Beauty and the Beast?

  • or, c) Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

  • Well, they all have beasts, bears or wolves in the title,

  • so I'll guess b) Beauty and the Beast.

  • OK, Georgina, we'll come back to that later.

  • It's interesting to ask how we can explain the lasting appeal of

  • these classic plotlines.

  • Someone who might know is anthropologist and writer,

  • Professor Jamie Tarani.

  • Here he is talking to BBC World Service's, The Why Factor.

  • See if you can spot his answer.

  • Often the reason why we feel so motivated to pass on stories

  • is because the stories do tap into certain universal human

  • fantasies and fears that will often transcend

  • the concerns of particular times and places. […]

  • We are intensely moralisticmost of the time,

  • the bad guys have unhappy endings and the

  • good guys have happy endings.

  • We know that in the real world it doesn't actually work like that

  • so there's an element of wish-fulfillment

  • that somehow satisfies our moral appetite.

  • Stories from very different cultures often have plots

  • with similar fantasies and fears.

  • These human emotions are universal, meaning they exist

  • everywhere and relate to everyone in the world.

  • Classic stories work because they tap into basic human emotions

  • they understand and express what it means to be human.

  • Unlike in the real world, stories can reinforce our sense of morality -

  • evil stepmothers get punished, Cinderella marries her

  • prince and everyone lives happily ever after.

  • In this way they create wish-fulfillmentthe achievement

  • of what we really want and desire.

  • Well, so much for plotlines, Neil, but that still doesn't explain how

  • stories have the power to catch and hold our attention.

  • Let's hear from novelist Sandra Newman, author of

  • How Not To Write a Novel – a handbook of over 200 common mistakes.

  • Here she tells BBC World Service's, The Why Factor,

  • that her absolute number one storytelling rule

  • is comprehensibilitypeople need to understand your story.

  • There are some people who actually are so unfortunately

  • bad at communicating that even when they tell a story

  • to another person it becomes incomprehensible.

  • And gradually as they stop making sense and ramble

  • and digress and don't know where they're going,

  • you see everybody not only lose interest but become hostile

  • people become very frustrated

  • when someone is not getting to the point.

  • According to Sandra, the biggest mistake is incomprehensibility

  • or not understanding the plot because the storyteller is rambling

  • talking in a confused way, going off the subject or not making sense.

  • When listeners give a story their time and attention,

  • they want the storyteller to get to the point -

  • start talking about the most important and relevant information.

  • But to cut a long story short, Georgina,

  • it's time to return to the quiz question.

  • Remember I asked you which famous folk tale had a

  • 'defeating the monster' plot. What did you say?

  • I said the answer was b) Beauty and the Beast. Was I right?

  • Your answer was

  • Oh, do get to the point, Neil!

  • wrong! In fact, the answer is, a) Beowulf -

  • an Old English epic about the hero, Beowulf,

  • who defeats dragons and beasts.

  • Well, Neil, there are two sides to every story,

  • as the saying goes.

  • So, let's recap the vocabulary we've learned,

  • starting with folk tales

  • popular stories that have been told and passed down

  • over generations.

  • Many folk tales contain universal ideas

  • ideas which exist everywhere, in every age and culture.

  • Stories tap into these ideas, meaning they understand,

  • connect to and express them.

  • Wish-fulfillment means the achievement or realisation of

  • things you really want and desire.

  • A good storyteller will never ramble -

  • talk in a confused way, often going off the subject

  • or not making much sense.

  • And instead will get to the point -

  • start talking about what is most important and relevant.

  • That's all we have time for, but remember to join us

  • again soon for the inside story on trending English

  • topics and vocabulary, here at 6 Minute English.

  • Bye for now!

  • Goodbye!

Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Neil.

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B1 georgina folk beowulf storyteller sandra cinderella

What makes a good story? - 6 Minute English

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/01/21
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