I’ve been searching for the secret to a good story since I was a teenager. I’m not talking about a monotonous verbal narrative that recites, “And she was like, and I was like, and she goes, and I go.”

Have you ever experienced that moment when conversation is elevated to an art?  The story teller hones in on the emotions of his or her audience, pausing, diving in, building tension, throwing in a brief aside that foreshadows the punchline, and bringing down the house with true-to-life details. Only a few people I know have that talent.

Perhaps some of them are naturals; instinctively finding their breath, tempo, and measure of words. I have to practice. I find my emphasis by trial and error— watching my audience to gauge whether I’m providing too much detail, or not enough. Am I rushing the ending, or letting it be carried by the momentum of mirth?With practice, it is taking me fewer re-tellings, and some bits come verbatim, the way a comedian will recite a familiar schtick upon request.

But, the success of a story still depends on the audience. And that’s the lovely thing about stories. A story is an exchange between teller and hearer, and both sides have to participate for the magic to happen.