This week is National Storytelling week in the UK – the seventeenth since it was conceived at the turn of the millennium. Storytelling is at the root of many art forms: we wouldn’t have books, films or television drama without it. Even the news is told in terms of ‘stories’, as we try and make sense of our world with narratives. Here are some tips to becoming a great storyteller – which in turn can only be good for your writing.
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works
Reading storybooks with young children is something that most parents and grandparents do. But storytelling is a little different, as the tale is more tailored to the storyteller and their own unique style. Telling stories is a way of passing on family history between generations -the story could be about your own childhood. Or you can make up or adapt stories to personalise and make them more relevant to your listeners. But what if you want to tell stories to a larger audience, for example at a school, or a festival?
Here are some guidelines to help you become an expert storyteller, gathered from information on the Society for Storytelling’s resources for National Storytelling Week. Visit their website for more details.
“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
1. Run through the story – essentially ‘what happens’. Be clear about the mechanics of the narrative.
2. Identify a main image, visualise a picture of something that stands out to you. It is your pathway to the visual world of your story.
3. Explore that picture, and focus on the details. Get the picture clear in your head. As you tell the story, it is as if you are watching a film, and describing what you see to others.
4. Choose a few other dramatic moments and turning points in the story, and visualise them.
5. Practise telling the story – to yourself, to your cactus, to your cat. You’ll only learn how to tell it effectively by actually telling it.
6. Try it out on someone else in a casual way – perhaps just going through the main events without ‘performing it’ as such.
7. Try it out a few more times in a relaxed setting, and then go for it with a larger audience!
8. Repeat the process again and again – learning where you need to slow down, speed up, add more details, take them away – or change parts altogether.
And then try another story. Storytelling aloud in this way can also be a great way of finding out what really works with an audience, and helping you write better stories.
Do share your storytelling stories with us – and any tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way!