What is the singular, intentional and subtle thread that runs through the story you are telling?
With a skilled storyteller, many things are happening in each storytelling that the audience may not be consciously aware of. It can be as simple as a gesture you make, a tone shift, or a pacing decision. I consider this singular subtlety to be felt by the live audience as a “something.” They’ll feel this when you, as the teller, get out of the way of the story; don’t preach, don’t moralize, don’t teach. Speak it and let the subtlety do the work.
Example One: When I tell my distinct version of “Beauty and the Beast,” I’ve decided that Beauty is a take-charge, inner-strength person.
Her presence and actions are intentional, measured, and concise. She is strong in the chaos of her family, learning what her fate is. She is strong in the face of the storm, which is the Beast’s anger. She’s not a victim. Note that in my telling, I don’t overtly name this strength. I don’t tell my audience about Beauty’s personality. I show it. I use it. I model it. I embody it.
Example Two: More business storytelling: my story of the angry manager in the bathroom has a subtle thread of “bemusement.” If you don’t know the story, it’s essentially how one person at a corporate event thought the speaker was terrible and angry-man was being very vocal about it…in the men’s bathroom. I was the speaker. . The bemusement shows in my telling, in how other people reacted to the manager, in how I responded to him, and ultimately how he responded to me.
Example Three: When I tell “The Tiger’s Whisker,” my subtle thread is “quiet.” Everything in this story, about a woman training a tiger to make a magic potion, is quiet. Never once do I say “quiet” in my words, but I know the singular subtlety is quiet. It’s not the subtle “strong” of Beauty; it’s the “quiet” presence of each character. And no one is “bemused.”
What is the singular subtlety thread that ties any of your great stories together?
Sean Buvala is a storyteller and communication coach in Avondale, Arizona. He is the founder and director of Storyteller.net. Photo by Stephen Kraakmo on Unsplash