Giving Gifts: The Basics of Storytelling
All of us wonder about things: Why is the sky blue? Why does the Sun rise in the east? Why does hair color differ from one person to the next? The list is endless.
Before written language, natural phenomena were explained in stories. This explanatory aspect makes storytelling an ideal teaching tool. Stoories can be used to identify unfamiliar terms and broach new ideas. They can be used to present culture. They can be USED TO ENRICH OUR LIVES. Using no media other than the imagination, we can instruct and entertain for hours through the art of telling and teaching stories.
Crafting the Story
A Cheyenne storyteller once said, "Stories are gifts. It us up to us to GIVE and receive them." Every gift of a story contains three elements:
1. The Beginning: Unwrapping. Special gifts are always wrapped, making the recipient eager to find out whats inside. As you prepare a short story, try to ensure that the beginning does not delay the exposition of the action; instead, it should grab the reader from the first sentence or, better yet, from the very first word. Avoid the use of predictable beginnings such as "Once upon a time." Instead, inject some unexpected flavor: "Once when there was no time, ...."
2. The Gift. The present revealed when the wrapping is removed should satisfy the recipients eagerness to open it. Just as the story beginning builds anticipation, the middle of the tale should resolve it. To be effective, a story must have conflict and a dominant idea or purpose. In addition to relating a problem and its solution, a memorable tale must convey some sort of mission. Try not to ram this down your listeners throats-instead, guide them on a journey of discovery that leads them to uncover the mission for themselves.
3. The Conclusion: Rewrapping. Like a precious gift carefully stowed away, stories should be "rewrapped" for savoring later on. Avoid predictable endings such as "The End." Instead, try to leave the listener with an intriguing or provocative conclusion. Stories neatly rewrapped become gifts for another day.
Telling the Story
Keep these guidelines in mind as you prepare to give the gift of your story:
1. Dont be ordinary, be extraordinary! No one wants to hear a story unless you have made it your own. Storytelling implies proprietorship; theres nothing wrong with "owning" your version of a tale.
2. Use "color" words. Paint word pictures in the listeners mind: "On the grassy, windblown savanna lived a mangy lion with a single tooth."
3. Practice. Until you feel comfortable telling your story, practice telling it again and again.
4. Dont memorize. No need to memorize your story?just let it pour out of you. Most storytellers concentrate not on the words but on the moment. Even forgetting a sequence of events is forgivable?as long as you create an indelible image.
5. Read and listen. Read loads of stories and listen to the stories that other people tell. Consider yourself a detective or an explorer; your mission is to investigate as many stories as you can. Eventually youll find the one thats right for you to tell.
6. Follow a path. As you tell a story, listen to what you are creating. Make sure you are heading in a direction that leads to the purpose of the story.
7. Write stories. Storytelling and writing are the twin children of narrative expression. The more you write, the more creative you will become at telling stories. And the more stories you tell, the more ideas you will get for writing them.
When you tell someone a story, you give them a gift that no one else can. Share your gifts far and wide!