My first Moth Storytelling night in Berkeley on June 6. 2018 on the theme “endings.” Stepping up to speak after my name was called, all I knew was my first line. For the Moth you cannot read anything prepared. Your name is picked out of a hat and you come on stage. As I walked up, I tried to fast-forward to at least the second line. But that is not how it works for me most of the time, whether in speaking or writing. I said my first line and the the second appeared and then the third. Six minutes later, the whole story had all tumbled out.
When extemporaneously speaking, I know the story but not how I will deliver it. That night the auditorium the lights were turned low, so I could not see the audience beyond the second row. At one point, in the storytelling, I paused for a few seconds and realized that people were holding their breath waiting for my next words. That is when I knew they were listening.
Good writing regulates how the reader breathes: speeding up for exciting points, stopping or slowing during dramatic or poignant passages. The secret superpower of writers is our ability to control the readers’ breath, emotions and feelings in their bodies. This also explains why sometimes we don’t have the words for why we like a certain book or passage we are reading. An effective story bypasses the brain and goes directly for the body and breath. Check this out next time you read.