About 6 years ago, when Mark and I first discovered the SCA, we had a fear of not knowing what to do and how to play. We attended VERY few events those first two years. Mostly new comer events-- so we could learn with other new people like ourselves-- and Universities. For that, I am extremely grateful to the kingdom of Atlantia. They have an AMAZING wealth of medieval recreationist artisans, who gladly share their craft.
At my first University, I signed up for seven of those wonderful classes-- but the one that sticks out to me, the one that I'm going to discuss-- I wasn't even registered for.
Court was held around lunch time, and I sat in the back because I was still new enough to have no idea what you do at court, especially your first time there. It's kind of like going to a new church-- you just glance around discreetly and do what everyone else is doing (;
Well, at the end of court, the queen requested a particular bard to sing for the court. And he sang the filk (a modern, popular tune sung with medieval modifications) song, "Gonna party like's is 1599."
It was -hysterical-! Once he'd finished, there was MUCH applauding, and then he announced that right after lunch, he was teaching a class on storytelling, for those interested, just follow him from the hall. And of course, that was -exactly- what I did.
I remember him talking about telling actual medieval stories-- they don't always END, so sometimes, as you're telling to modern audiences, you have to create an ending-- add a couple of words that will give it the right 'feel' so that you can cue the audience that the story is over.
He also spoke about how, sometimes, you will be called upon to tell a story by the royals. And OF COURSE, you're going to tell a story! But let's say that request sounds something like this," Good Gentle! Please, tell us a tale of the adventurous cow!"....and suppose you don't HAVE any cow stories in your repetorie. You're not going to say, "I'm sorry, Your Majesty. I know you really wanted to hear a story about a cow, but I don't any of those." You're going to say, "Yes, Your Majesty!" And you're going to make one up right then and there!
Well, he proceeded to tell us a mostly humorous tale about a cow-- for the life of me, I can't recall the details. What I DO recall is that he started to loose the thread of the tale-- and our eyes must have started to glaze over with that loss, because he ENDED it with: "And they all DIED! The end!"
And that, right there, was the final lesson of the class-- if you lose the story, if it's going badly, if the audience isn't with you, if you reach a point you just can not recover from-- kill all the characters quickly and sometimes gorely and painfully and finish it with, "And they all DIED! The end!"