Youíre a Storyteller? Whatís That?
By: Staff at Storyteller.net
You Say Youíre a Storyteller? Whatís That? (This article was written by Batsy Bybell)
Once upon a time, a long time ago, far far away -- what images do these words invoke for you? For me, as a storyteller, these simple words set the stage for a magical journey into the world of imagination. A storyteller? Wait a minute, whatís that? Isnít that what our parents used to call us when we got into trouble as kids, telling whoppers or lies to them? Not exactly.
What then is storytelling? Itís easier to say what storytelling is not. Itís not reading aloud from a book or reciting a poem from memory or acting a dramatic part in a play. Storytelling is looking into the eyes of an audience, one person at a time, and relating a story to them. Together we create the tale through our shared communication. As I begin to see and re-create my story through voice and gestures, I can feel the casual glances shift into a different gear as the listeners cut loose of conscious thought. Itís like spinning a web. The first words are the beginning strands that attach to one or two listeners. But as more words emerge, more connections are formed with a widening circle of people paying attention. Their postures reflect the shift into intent listening as personal mental images deepen. By the end of the tale, all of us are linked through the strands of the story web.
But itís not straight recitation because I find that each time I tell a story it comes out differently. The words I use, the pace of the plot, and even the characterizations change slightly because each audience is unique. If a person sitting in front of me yawns, looks scared, or has a questioning look, then I can react to that situation. I interject a quick explanation of a strange word, speed up or slow down, or change the cadence of the story. By sharing directly with the audience and responding to their reactions and facial expressions, I know how to tailor the story line to match expectations.
When I first began oral storytelling to groups, I was amazed to find that both children and adults sat mesmerized for long minutes and clearly remembered stories that I had told them months earlier. "Why was this happening?" I wondered. I now know that each listener walks away with a definite set of mental images derived from the words, gestures, and sounds used in the story. But thereís more. I also think itís the personal touch, telling a story by making eye contact one-on-one and looking into expressive faces. When I react to them as a storyteller, I gear the story to their responses, which brings the audience in touch with me. Everyone likes to hear a story. We all have fond memories of being tucked into bed with a good night book by parents. Who doesnít love to hear what happened to family when growing up? We long for the closeness and intimacy of personal conversation with valued friends, yet many forms of modern communication and entertainment donít allow this. Storytelling sets the stage for this to happen. Many audience members feel that direct connection upon hearing the story.
Something truly remarkable happens when you tell stories. The art is so simple, almost timeless, yet quite effective. Teachers, counselors, ministers, and social workers are incorporating storytelling as a useful method of communication in their professions. Research is showing that listening and speaking are as necessary to literacy skills as reading and writing. Teachers are finding that children learn confidence in the value of their own words and public speaking. Anyone can tell a story; we do it all the time when recounting our day over the dinner table or sharing an anecdote at the office. To be a storyteller, tell stories.