A Storyteller’s Secrets( except they’re not secret)

I’ve spend the past few days getting ready to teach a storytelling workshop up in the Four Corners area.  At the same time I’ve had a couple of folks contact me in the story coaching realm.  So I thought this would be a good time to dust off a work in progress… always will be a work in progress.  With thanks to several other tellers who are noted here are a few lessons about telling stories I’ve learned along the way.

“All true living is encounter.” (Martin Buber)  Storytelling is an encounter and the relationship between the equally important storyteller/story/listener. It’s not all about YOU!  That should make you feel a little easier already.  You’re ego is not your storytelling friend!

Look for and tell stories that you truly love.  It makes telling them infinitely easier.
You do a disservice to the listeners, yourself, the author, and/or story if you tell  or read stories that you really don’t like yourself.

Other than the odd troll that pops up once in a great while, you’re listeners want you to succeed.  They are on your side. They also  want you to  invite them along on a journey where they can feel  that they are  being  safe and well cared for. Your comfort level will be contagious. Share what you love and enjoy sharing, and that will come across, share your anxieties about  perfection and that is what will come across. (Thanks to Mike Seliger)

Tell the story as if you are offering and unwrapping a gift for the listeners.  (Thanks to Liz Mangual for this and so much more!)

Consider using threshold rituals like bells, candles, ritual beginnings and endings.  “I stepped on a pin and the pin bent, and that’s the way the story went.”

The best way to learn to tell is to tell.  Tell the story you love over and over again. Then tell it again.

Don’t stress over memorizing the exact words unless it is a literary tale.  Create roadmap of the key points of the story, know them well, see them in your mind and  even  draw them on paper if you are a visual thinker.

When you find yourself stumbling at the same point in the story- consider adapting or rewriting that part of the story.

Stories don’t always “land” where you plan or hope they will.  Your listeners will hear them in ways you may not have expected.  Stories may offer understandings about the way things are, but they are not well suited to giving lectures

Remember the “storytellers secret.” If you hear a story you like, tell it to someone the same day you first heard it.  Tell it before the sun comes up the next day and you will remember it for the rest of your life.  (Thank you George Bright from Cornwall)

Use the Pizza Principle- crust, sauce and cheese are necessary and sufficient.  Everything else is topping.  Start with what is necessary to make the story coherent. Then add the ‘toppings’ judiciously.  (Thank you Michael Parent)

“… And the best story-tellers are men and women who seem to be giving us in the stories they are telling fragments of their reverie:  no matter how exciting the incidents they relate there is always reverie behind them….  And the art of the story-teller, I think consists in giving spontaneity to a series of happenings. Think of Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter, the Frontera chef Rick Bayless, or even better, a five year old telling you  what happened on the playground. They epitomized this kind of presence.  (Thank you Padraic Colum)

Okay my teller friends out there.  I encourage you to put some more logs on the story fire here in the comment section.  Thanks!


One comment

  1. Lovely and enriching comments, thanks to you all.
    Here´s what I feel and how I go about storytelling:
    Read and pick that story you fall in love with, work on it, feel it, hear it, smell it, make it yours and get ready to share it. Your passion to tell it will definitely enchant your audience, which will fall for it.
    Good luck and most important, have fun! 🙂

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