For those that weren’t able to make it to the Tall Tale Introduction session at the Budapest Area Contest on March 22, 2014, I’ll give a little summary, below.

You can also watch here the recorded video of the session:

A tall tale is a story where the narrator walks the fine line between reality and fiction, fact and fantasy, truth and deception.  It often starts off as a perfectly “real” story, and the best tall tales are the ones where the audience doesn’t know where the narrator was just exaggerating facts, where the narrative took a sharp turn into the realm of fiction, or where the storyteller was feeding them a complete lie.  A well woven tall tale might even wander back and forth between reality and fantasy, keeping the audience hanging in uncertainty.  A tall tale can also be complete fiction right from the start, e.g., a legend or a historical tale, or something so absurd that the audience immediately knows it’s just a story, but what all tall tales have in common is that they are told with such conviction that the audience wants to believe every word.

One of the common tools of deception is for the narrator to place the tale in a setting unfamiliar to the audience (a different location or time).  In Hungarian we would say “messziről jött ember azt mond amit akar”.  In other words, because the audience isn’t familiar with the setting, but they have reason to believe that the narrator is, then they are less inclined to cast a doubt.  The tale might also take place in a location very familiar to the audience, but in a different time – this is common when telling a legend, where the tale explains a mystery or a little known fact associated with a very real place.

You don’t need to be a master story teller to tell a tall tale.  Just start with an everyday story, and let your imagination run wild.  Start by exaggerating the facts a little, embellishing them with a few twists on reality, think about a few “what would have happened if …” scenarios, and let the story run away on its own!

Here are a few of my favorite examples, to give you some ideas (the first five are the ones I showed in the presentation):

1.  Linda Evans tells a story of her new diet that is so absurd it’s almost shocking.

2. Fiona Herbert’s story starts off perfectly believable, until she meets a troll on a dark street.  Watch the absolute conviction with which she narrates – absolutely fantastic!  (Sharpen your ears for her Scottish accent).

3. Takako Sakamoto’s story about discovering that her husband is a wizard – Harry Potter’s stepbrother, no less – is absurd right from the start, but her incredible humor and theatrics makes me want to believe it!  (Sharpen your ears again, this time for her Japanese accent).

4.  Burton French tells of the town that sold their souls to the devil, and how they won them back.  This is a classic example of a legend, very well told.   (Though, because it’s not a personal story, it has just a tiny bit less conviction than the preceding ones, which highlights one of the difficulties of choosing a tale where you are not the protagonist).

5.  Heather Cook’s story of her first parachute jump is nearly perfect from the first second to the last.

And a few bonus clips that I didn’t have time to show during the presentation:

6. Jim Ball tells of the adventures his family had on a cruise to Mexico.  I like this one because it’s quite believable, almost all the way up to the very end (yes, renting a motorboat at night from a taxi driver’s brother is perfectly realistic in Mexico!).

7. David Lurie’s story about why he was nearly late for the tall tale contest had me mesmerized.  Full of twists and turns, and the ending is absolutely fantastic!

8.  Finally, Alan Donegan tells about his sword fight against a mysterious attacker, who turns out to be someone from …