Tales from the Cabin

Tell Me a Scary Story

An introduction to the art of by-the-seat-of-your-pants storytelling
By Andrew Nygren
Published: September 1, 2001
Stars sparkled against the dark shroud of night.
The s’mores were mere crumbs and smudges. Embers glowed moodily in the fire pit. Far across the lake, loons lamented their haunting autumn farewell. In a half-circle, smoldering embers between us, sat a group of 12 adults and children, all patiently waiting for my story to begin.
Halloween is my second-favorite holiday of the year for this very reason. Telling scary stories is my forté.
There was never a night by the lake, stream, bonfire or fireplace without pleas of, “Dad! Tell us a scary story.” Time has changed the petitions from “Dad” to “Grampa,” “Andy” and “Uncle Andy,” but “tell us a scary story,” remains a steadfast entreaty. Over the years, I’ve garnered a bag of tried-and-true storytelling methodologies, but I always enjoy making up stories as I tell them. Improvisation, I’ve found, is as essential to telling vibrant scary stories as a dark night and
flickering bonfire.
Extemporization fills your storytelling with energy, imagination, freshness and flexibility. The plot, characters and story ideas abound wherever you look – you merely have to know what to look for.
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