Checklist For Being a Better Storyteller

I tell stories for a living. That’s what compelling TV is all about — great storytelling. I think I get it from my dad — he’s a fabulous storyteller. He’s been known to captivate audiences with his police stories or tales from the “old neighborhood.”

Some people have storytelling in their genes but you can also learn how to get people to listen to your adventures. The skill will help you at cocktail parties and even when putting your kids to bed!

I’m excited about our guest blogger today — she knows all about storytelling and has dedicated a whole website to the subject at MrsP.com. Mrs. P is portrayed by actress Kathy Kinney, who starred as Mimi on “The Drew Carey Show” for nine years.

How to Be a Better Storyteller

by Mrs. P

Whether you’re at home trying to get your child to fall asleep or at an office party telling a story about sitting in a patch of poison ivy on your honeymoon, having good storytelling skills can greatly improve your life. No one ever walks away from a good storyteller. And good storytellers are always invited back to the next party. Here are seven tips to improve your own skills:

1) Start with the ending. In other words, know how your story will end before you begin. Starting a story is like starting a trip, and if you have a map and know your destination, it will be a more satisfying and entertaining journey for both you and your audience.

2) Take your time. Don’t rush your story. Use dramatic pauses. Make your audience actively wonder what the next turn in the story will be. If you learn to do this well, you will soon see your listeners literally sitting on the edge of their seats.

3) Make your story relatable. When I was a teenager, I used to babysit the little girl next door. She’d ask me to tell her stories, and I would always begin, “Once upon a time, there was a 4-year-old girl named Angela.” “Just like me!” the little girl seated beside me would exclaim – and I would have her absolute attention for as long as the story lasted. Know your audience and tailor your story to them in any way you can.

4) Don’t be afraid to change course. Whether you’re making up a story or reading from a book, be aware of the reactions of your listeners. Are they staring at you as if hypnotized or shifting in their chairs and thumbing their iPhones? If you’re losing your audience, skip past the boring stuff and get to the good stuff. Talk a little louder or change your pace. Or just stop talking altogether. When the listeners look at you to see why you stopped, smile slyly and say, “ Okay, now this is where it gets good.”

5) Unleash your inner actor. Don’t just tell the story or read the story. Perform the story. Use different voices. Move around. Gesture. Don’t be afraid to drop your inhibitions and go for it. Your listeners will see your efforts as an indication you respect them and will reward your performance with their undivided attention.

6) Use audience participation. Involve your listeners in the storytelling process. Ask them questions about the story, such as, “What do you think’s going to happen next?” This works especially well for children, as does inviting them to help with sound effects or voicing different characters. They’ll love you for sharing the fun of storytelling with them.

7) Leave them wanting more. It’s tempting, if you’re scoring big with a story, to want to keep going and stretch out the story, or jump into another story. And another story. Don’t do it. Soon you’ll cross the line into being the windy bore. Better to tell a good story well, and then stop. If your listeners are begging you for more, politely decline. And walk out the door a hero.

Mrs. P reads classic children stories on her popular website, MrsP.com. The site has been incorporated into school and library systems across the country, where it has been visited by millions of children. Mrs. P is portrayed by actress Kathy Kinney, who starred as Mimi on “The Drew Carey Show” for nine years. 

 

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3 replies
  1. Meliss O'Dell
    Meliss O'Dell says:

    Wonderful post! I always enjoyed telling my children stories, especially scary ones, and then surprising them at the end. I’ll always be grateful for the 4 years we had no TV, and entertained each other with stories. Now that I have grandchildren, I get to enjoy their expressions as they watch the word pictures flash across their minds.

    Reply

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