Art of the Tall Story

The 'Tall Story' is a playful story. Like all stories, it involves an agreement between teller and audience to

  • 'go along for the ride'
  • suspend disbelief about the 'facts' of the story for a certain period of time.

Part of the fun and the challenge of the tall story is to see how long the audience will enjoy suspending disbelief on the one hand and to enjoy the skill and the style of the teller as he or she 'spins' it out.

Partly why the 'tall story' works in Australia is that we also 'yarn' or tell anecdotes about our work and social lives. The yarn, often told in an exagerated 'matter of fact' style, will often include a certain amout of exageration as well but there is usually not this game about when to start 'spinning it out' and 'how far to take it.'

So how do the really good tall story or tall tale tellers do it?

establish your credentials
- this usually involves putting yourself into a particular setting with some characters and describing that setting and those characters with enough detail and 'veracity' so your audience can 'go there' themselves and imagine that something quite interesting is going to come out of this setting and these characters
- your 'tellers' tone of voice is important here as well. Generally speaking, tell the story as if you have every right to be telling it and 'of course your audience will listen to it with a light and flexible respect

involve audience
- this is usually more of the indirect invitation to imagine and go there and might include an aside like 'you know what these events are like eh?'

variety of pace, volume, pitch
- in the tall story this is often kept fairly minimal especially at first to enhance the 'believability factor' but, as the story develops, and, depending on the style, you can make very good use of variety

have your characters speak
- this is an almost essential part of the tall story and often the whole success of the 'spinning' will depend on how well the teller does this
- to do this well, have a clear picture in your mind about what your character looks like, how he feels and how he talks.
- it can help a lot if you model your character on someone you know or, at least, met once.
-you can fall back on 'archetypal' characters here, the 'old drover' for example. Your audience will more or less be expecting you to do this and will usually 'go along for the ride'.

tell your own version of the story
- once again, highly important. Your story will be 'believable' for longer and much more playful if you tell it in your own words and your own language.
- draw on your own experiences to add detail and colour
- let some of your turns of phrase that you use when you are talking to friends come into your telling, they will help you relax and help the audience as well

say ‘Yes’ to ideas
- this is what your audience wants to enjoy, you, 'the teller', taking them to another mind place where everyone can play with ideas.

have fun

© 2007 Daryll Bellingham, storyteller

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Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller
P.O. Box 5300, West End, Q4101, 
Brisbane, Australia
Tel. 61 (0)7 3846 3135
Mob. 0417 478408
All contents copyright © 2007, Daryll Bellingham. All rights reserved.
Last update: 26th October, 2007.
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