Bringing Stories Alive
Some Tips for Helping to Make Your Story More Interesting for Listeners

People love listening to stories from alive, interesting fellow humans.

In general, in most cultures, we like it when our storytellers:
are enthusiastic (this is especially, but not exclusively, so of child audiences)
are enjoying telling their stories
are inclusive (eg - inviting tone, gesture, eye contact)
express the feelings and emotions in the story.

So make sure you tell the stories that are important to you. That way, you are more likely to be expressive and enthusiastic. Change the story, if need be, to reflect your values and the level of interest of the audience.

If you can tell your story in a way that helps listeners ‘come on a journey with you’ they will be absorbed and interested.

Give a signal that a story is about to start so that people can relax into their story listening mode and come on a journey with you, the storyteller..

All over the world people use ‘narrative structure’ - character, setting, problem, resolution - as a familiar and understood map to help take people on the journey and provide detail at the same time.

People are curious. We like to hear some interesting details of:
the settings - time and place
(the year or day or time of day, the location - which suburb or town, or country, buildings, colours, sounds, smells)

the characters - the people in the story
(what people are like, how old, what they wear, mannerisms, way they speak, what they say, what they feel)

Take time to describe at least one character in detail or one place. You have permission to take your time. Your audience will wait for you and, in fact, will enjoy your taking your time.

Problem and Resolution
Don’t minimise or ‘Disney-ise’ the ‘problem’ or ‘challenge’ or ‘issue’. The problem provides some tension and perhaps excitement which then makes the resolution even more enjoyable. If it is a personal story, tell it ‘like it is’ for you. We like to hear how people deal with or overcome issues.

If there is a resolution or solution make sure you describe it. This is both satisfying and different to the rest of the story, but also, part of the way in which we understand, reflect and learn. Usually the problem and how it is resolved is the whole point of the story and the reason for telling it, so give it justice.

Expressing your feelings is one of the most important ways of being human. Your story will be more alive if you do so. This is one of the gifts you are offering your listener.

Tell your story with your own voice. Be clear enough for your audience to follow everything you say but use your own individual or cultural accent and phrasing. We like diversity.

Have your characters speak in their own voice. The first time a characters says some thing in a story is special.

Feedback and Audience Involvement
Keep an eye on your audience. Notice what they are enjoying and when they look puzzled or asleep and change your story and your telling accordingly. Children are especially good audiences this way. There is no mistaking what they are thinking.

Audiences, especially children, enjoy being involved in a story. You can ask children to join in in all sorts of ways - repeat a line, make sound effects, guess what is going to happen next. With older children and adults, it's best to be more subtle.

Most importantly, enjoy the telling yourself. Have fun and your audience will to.

Top | Art of Storytelling | Storytelling in Australia

Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller
P.O. Box 5300, West End, Q4101, 
Brisbane, Australia
Tel. 61 (0)7 3846 3135
Mob. 0417 478408

All contents copyright © 2001, Daryll Bellingham. All rights reserved.
Last update: 21st September, 2010.
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