Good storytelling is at the heart of every trial. Every story has a beginning, middle and end. Good stories tap into the universal human experience in a way that unites the storyteller and the audience. In a trial, the advocates tell stories on behalf of their clients. The stories must not only be true and authentic, but also persuasive: based on the stories presented in the courtroom, the jury-audience must make important decisions involving the life, liberty, property and happiness of the characters in the story. This places a tremendous amount of responsibility on the advocate-storyteller.
Some advocates are naturally gifted storytellers. Others must work hard to develop their storytelling abilities. Most of us have to work hard to develop as storytellers.
A story is far more than a simple recitation of what happened. A good storyteller takes the audience directly into the scene and makes them care about the people, the situation and the outcome. A good story changes the lives of the audience members. Before it can change their lives, it must first change the life of the storyteller. This requires empathy, compassion and dedication to the truth.
There are various modes of storytelling: verbal stories, written literature, music, movies and television shows, the theater. As human beings, we love stories. We occupy our free time with stories, whether we are creating them, sharing them, or consuming them.
In preparation for this assignment, read and/or watch the following materials about storytelling. Read them all, and follow any links the materials suggest going to. As you read and watch these materials, keep track of what makes for a good story. Keep a pen and paper handy and take notes about why stories are important, how they affect the human mind, and what their important elements are. We’ll discuss some of your observations in class on Wednesday.
As the culmination of your preparation, I particularly want you to watch the video in the highlighted link.
http://www.triallawyerscollege.com/publications/1798.y.pdf (please start with this one)
http://advocacyteaching.blogspot.com/2013/01/storytelling-again-great-storytelling.html (please end with this one)
Tactics, Techniques and Procedures
As you read the materials and watch the videos, you’ll find a number of important storytelling elements:
2. Color through detail
3. Organization. Beginning/middle/end
4. Use of present tense to bring the audience into the moment
Your assignment is to listen to a song that tells a story and then convert the story of that song to a verbal presentation. Your story must go beyond simply telling your audience what happened: you must capture the mood of the story. You must imagine the scene or scenes depicted by the song and share that as a story. Moreover, the assignment is to tell someone else’s story, not your story. For instance, don’t pick the song you listened to right after your first significant relationship came to its bitter and untimely end and tell about your relationship.
This is not to be a legal story. I do not want a cause of action, lawsuit, crime or defense overlaid artificially on top of the story. I just want you to tell the story from the song. It may take five minutes, or it may take ten or fifteen, but your story must be true to the universal truths and the theme, mood and scene evoked by the song.
You can pick any song you like, from any genre or era, provided it tells a story. If you need assistance finding a song, here are a few from some different genres and eras. You can look up the lyrics on the internet and listen to the songs with these links. Please don’t watch music videos of the songs, however; they are someone else’s interpretation of the story told by the song, and I don’t want you to be influenced by a video version of the song.
El Paso (Marty Robbins) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIHRgisdbeY
Creeping Death (Metallica) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXWq3f01e2U
The River (Bruce Springsteen) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAB4vOkL6cE
She’s Got You (Patsy Cline) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWCUh6tf7PA
Coat of Many Colors (Dolly Parton) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7I_9MMcWvk
Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZLS8E3kn3w
White Trash Beautiful (Everlast) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nG-6wK_j6E
Papa Don’t Preach (Madonna) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LL0tXgaA2xQ
Dance with the Devil (Immortal Technique) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R80-1Ej83o
In class, you will take turns telling your stories. You are not allowed to use notes. We will record these stories for later use. Do not announce the song from which your story was derived until I ask you to do so.