Trans World Radio Canada - Journey to Hope Blog - What Stuart McLean Taught Me About Storytelling

Journey to Hope

TWR Canada President Ray Alary blogs each Thursday, telling behind-the-scenes stories and ministry updates you won't find anywhere else.  Come back weekly to read the latest, or sign up to get Ray's blog delivered directly to your email inbox.
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  • Mar9Thu

    What Stuart McLean Taught Me About Storytelling

    March 9, 2017 by Ray Alary
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    When I heard Stuart telling a story, it inspired me to tell and write my own story.

    I told the story a few months ago about driving in Burundi when we had to pull over for a short time on the side of the road. The people walking on the road heard my friend talking and recognized him as the voice on the radio. Soon there was a crowd around the car begging my friend to preach. These people felt like they knew my friend, they felt connected. He was one of them, he understood them, he had a positive message that improved their day, their relationships, their families.

    That’s the power of a trusted voice on the radio, but how does it happen?

    A few days ago, a master storyteller passed away. For many Canadians, Stuart McLean was a household name. Over the span of his career, he told hundreds of stories which aired on the CBC. His radio show centred around a Canadian family in Toronto who ran a record store called The Vinyl Cafe.
    Sandy and I cannot remember the first time we listened the The Vinyl Cafe, we think that we were on furlough and complained to someone about how many hours we were going to have to drive and they gave us some CD’s to listen to in the car.
    As Canadians living overseas, we wanted a piece of home even though we were far away. We wanted something that was truly Canadian, that would make us laugh, and maybe for the duration of the program feel like we were at home again. Corner Gas was our TV show and The Vinyl Café was our radio program. When we lived in South Africa, we introduced The Vinyl Cafe to our friends, on airplanes I had people sitting next to me asking me what I was laughing at. This radio program became a part of our own story.

    How do you form a connection to a voice on the radio?

    I have this emotional attachment to both Stuart McLean and The Vinyl Cafe, though I never met the man. The descriptions were vivid and I could picture the people and places he talked about in my mind. Part of the connection was his quiet voice and the way he used inflection, pacing, and tone of voice to draw you in. The stories were entertaining but also relate-able, they involved scenarios and people and places that were common to many Canadians, quirks about our society and culture that we can poke a little fun at without insult.
    Something more important was happening than just a good story on the radio. When I heard Stuart telling a story, it inspired me to tell and write my own story. One of the reasons that I blog is because this man inspired me to tell a different kind of story. Stuart’s stories were all fictional and mine are true, but they are all about real emotions and journeys and situations.
    Listening to Stuart made me ask myself how he could create stories I wanted to listen to over and over. I do not know how many times I have listened to the story of Dave cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, but I still find it funny. Many of TWR’s listeners are oral learners, they learn through story. Jesus told stories, or parables, 2000 years ago to help people learn. Stuart could turn the mundane things of life into a story that made you lean in, nod, and laugh out loud. Listening to Stuart built my own confidence to try and tell my stories in a way that made people want to hear them over and over.
    Whenever I am asked to speak, many times I am asked to repeat a story I have already told. Tell the story about the man with a radio in a prison – tell us the story about the Imam who came to faith listening to the radio in Africa. I never get tired of telling these stories, but I am always looking for new stories as well.

    I often speak to church groups and on Sunday mornings about the ministry of TWR Canada and share my real-life stories from around the world. I would love to speak to your church or group. Use the contact form here to get in touch with me and we will make it happen.

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