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How To Become a Storyteller

Updated on April 16, 2016
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The Art of Storytelling

If you’re a teacher or otherwise comfortable speaking in front of people, you may have thought once or twice about storytelling. Everyone tells stories. Some people actually make money at it.

If you loved to listen to fairy tales or hear about far away imaginary places, you might also be able to share these stories with others.

In this hub, I will talk about becoming a good storyteller using suitable stories.

Storytelling is indeed a form of art.
Storytelling is indeed a form of art. | Source

Storytelling: Step One – Getting Started

Before you ever sit in front of a crowd, you need to practice telling stories. The first place to start is somewhere you won’t feel intimidated. You can tell stories to your own children, the neighbor’s children, to your family, to close friends and other people you trust.

Take time to select and practice stories that call to you. Try not to do a story that doesn’t resonate with you or your personality – your audience will know you’re not passionate about it.

At the library, the section 398.2 usually has lots of fairy tales and other similar types of legends – this is a great place to start finding stories to tell.

Begin listening – really listening. Watch other storytellers. Watch their actions, movements and speech. See how they carry themselves. Listen closely to their words and how they present their stories. Listen to other people’s stories without interruption, taking in every word.

In front of different audiences, hone your craft. Pick one story and work on it – really work on it. Then, tell that same story to ten or twenty different people, varying it a bit each time. Don’t try to memorize every single word. Just be very familiar with the story, and each time you tell it, more of your personal style and skill will show through.

This is also the time to decide if you want to be a storytelling hobbyist or if you want to try to make it a profession.

Storytelling: Step Two – Getting Out There

Eventually, after plenty of practice, the time comes to go tell some stories in front of a crowd.

Think back to that day when you were little, standing on the diving board above the pool for the first time. You stare out at the water, wondering if it will swallow you up forever. Eventually, you realize that won’t happen and you just have to jump.

Storytelling is a little like that. You have to just go for it and trust that you’ll come up for air. You really will make it back out of the pool. Perhaps next time you’ll try the high-dive.

Begin volunteering at schools, libraries, campgrounds, birthday parties, coffeehouses and other such places.

Don’t expect to make money right of way – if that’s the direction in which you want to go. You need to spend time honing your craft and building a reputation.

It’s just like any other business endeavor: you have to make an initial investment before you can turn a profit. With storytelling, your investment is time and practice honing your skills.

Once you have a solid reputation, people will begin to request hearing stories from you.

It's critical that you know your audience when you become a storyteller.
It's critical that you know your audience when you become a storyteller. | Source

Can You Picture Yourself As a Storyteller?

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Storytelling: Step Three – Branching Out

Now that you have a solid following and word is spreading about your incredible stories, you can begin to branch out.

You can try for bigger venues at festivals and even at workshops.

Perhaps now your storytelling services will fetch higher wages, as well – if you choose to go in that direction.

Storytelling: Tips, Tricks and Advice

As you improve your skills, you’ll begin to thoroughly know your stories, the subtleties in meaning, what works and what doesn’t.

You will also learn that there are three critical elements for a story to really work well: you, your audience and the type of story. It pays to know your audience, and in turn, what story you need to tell.

For example, I once heard about a storyteller who was called to a high school. The school had a bad reputation for gang fighting and other acts of violence. The storyteller knew exactly what to do. Once the students were assembled, she shared that she knew martial arts. This got the students' attention.

She proceeded to tell of a man who had studied karate for many, many years. He had earned a black belt long ago. One day, he was at a restaurant when a man entered, who was obviously drunk. The drunken man was large and muscular; he was talking loudly. He kept harassing other customers. He looked even more intimidating with his white, stained tank-top shirt and slicked back hair. A few customers got up to leave. The man who had studied karate knew exactly how to deal with him. All he had to do was wait until the drunkard got close enough.

When the large man got nearer, a seemingly feeble older man stood up as if to confront him. He said, “my brother, why are you in such pain?”

Suddenly, the drunken man broke down into sobs. After a few minutes of weeping, he looked at the old man. “I tell you, sir,” he said through slurred speech, “my wife just died of heart failure. She is all I have in the world. My heart is bleeding.” At this, the old man put a hand on the drunkard’s shoulder and let him continue weeping. He stood there and listened. Then, he listened some more.

The man who knew karate witnessed this. He thought about the fact that he had a black belt. Then, he looked back at the two men.

When the storyteller finished, even the students who never liked to pay attention in class were spellbound. You could hear a fly buzzing, but nothing else.

That just goes to show you how important it is to know your audience.

Source

© 2012 Cynthia Sageleaf

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    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Docmo - thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate your words and coming from a fabulous hubber like you, this is just an awesome compliment. :) Thank you - I'm glad you enjoyed this.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      This is truly superb, Cyndi. It is great how you have given science to the artform and took us by hand step-by-step. Wonderful instructions and sharing here. voted up and across!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      KDuBarry03 - hey, thanks for stopping by! :) After writing this, I'm seriously thinking about starting up a storytelling blog. :) Cheers!

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      Storytelling is a great skill any writer should have under their belt. It will help with story building, clarification, and is amazingly fun :) great hub!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Julie - you HAVE to share some of your stories. I have a feeling you're also a great storyteller. :D Hubhugs!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      I really enjoyed this hub. I work in a school and keep asking the Head Teacher to let me tell stories to the kids (I do all of the different voices), she says I can do it this term, yeah!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      izettl - hehe, that SOUNDS like quite a story. When I get a chance, I'll head over and read. :) Looking forward to it!

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Irwin 5 years ago from The Great Northwest

      cclitgirl~ I have a hub about a couple, don't know if I can suggest them here but one involves my first accidental experience with a nude beach- lol. It WAS quite a story.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      chef-de-jour - thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words. All these comments are starting to REALLY inspire me. :) I'm getting all these stories cooked up (no pun intended, hehe) in my head. I recently told a classroom full of kids about a flea that grew to the size of a cow. They were spellbound! I really want to investigate this further, too. I'm a hobbyist, but I do have the know-how to break into it right now and I keep having people tell me to do so. Hmmm. Thanks so much! :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Robert - thank you so much for stopping by. I enjoyed your comments and feedback - thank you so much. You know, I'm thinking about doing this even more because I get a lot of positive feedback from the few stories I've told - even here at HubPages. :) Thanks again! Cheers!

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      OOOOO thank you for this. Where I work and teach we have storytellers come through regularly to ply their solo trade. They are special people with all that story and know how up there in their heads! As a drama teacher I'm often involved 'out there' in front of people and have told stories - albeit very short ones - to an audience. Great energy when you get a response and attention!

      Your hub is great for those who are on the brink - you've captured it beautifully.

    • ROBERTHEWETTSR profile image

      rOBERT hEWETT SR. 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      You have a great story telling talent CC. Your account of the restaurant incident was perfectly timed and had a good moral lesson. My father was a really good story teller. I am credited with some peers as a story teller, but I am not as good as my father. I will be back to read more.

      Robert

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      izettl - hehe, aw, thank you so much for your insights and comments. :) I love that you enjoyed this. Hehe, it sounds to me like you've got a storytelling streak. Hmm, I would LOVE to hear some! :)

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Irwin 5 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Great and creative topic! One of those hubs I wish I had thought of writing and I love that story at the end...great. Oh wait I already said great. How about a VOTE UP then?

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Billy, aw, you're too kind. I am inspired by great people - like you. :) Now, if just ONE of these talents could really work for me, I might be all right. Hehehe. Thanks for stopping by - it's always a pleasure to see you. Hubhugs!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Audra, aw shucks. You're amazing, too. :) I just love your poetry and the imagery you portray. You are an inspiration to me and one of these days, I'll write some poetry. Still working up the courage. Hehe.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I never got a notification of this hub; sorry about that. Great job and you are so talented that I see great things ahead of you...so many talents....go get 'em girl!

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 5 years ago

      I am amazed how that person got to an audience no one else could reach! You did an excellent job portraying that here! You are a great writer ! I like this hub on storytelling! Very creative too!

      Voted up!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Beth - hello! Thank you so much for your insightful comments and feedback. :) That sounds like a fun tradition you had! Perhaps one day I will share this with my own children. I love the idea of storytelling and I want to incorporate even more of it into my life. :) You're absolutely right: it is an art.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 5 years ago from Canada

      I love story telling!! I started when I was young with my friends. Then, I practiced (lots of it) with my children when they were young. Each of them would give me one word, which I had to incorporate into the story as a theme or object. We had some wild stories!! Now that they are older, they still talk about some of the stories, which I use with other children when I am at the schools. :)

      Story telling is an art. It's fun telling the story, and listening to a good presenter, is extremely entertaining.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Pamela99 - hey there! Thanks for stopping by. :) I definitely love storytelling and I want to get even more practice at it myself. So far, I've mostly done it in front of my students - one of these days I'll expand upon it. Thank you for the votes, too.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      I always thought being a good storyteller was a gift. I try to tell a joke and sometimes forget the punch line. LOL However, I have taught numerous adult classes and am very comfortable with that. I think your hub is extremely useful with the directions to become a good storyteller. Up and awesome.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Vinaya - oh, wow! That's great! It's a start, too. Perhaps a little storytelling is in your future. :) (HUGS)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      I have written stories but never told my stories to a crowd. All have done is reading few paragraphs.

      Your tips are very useful, thanks for sharing.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Ericsomething - hehe, sorry to leave you hanging. Hehe. Thanks for the compliment, though. :) You're right: everyone has a story to tell. It's all in the technique. I need to enter some contests, it looks like. ;)

    • ericsomething profile image

      Eric Pulsifer 5 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Aww, cclitgirl, leave me hanging for the next installation like that ... which is another great storyteller's technique. Excellent stuff. As far as material, everyone's got a story whether he or she believes that or not.

      I always did love those tall-tales contests that some rural communities have.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Oh my goodness, Ardie, you would be AWESOME at storytelling. If your hubs are ANY indication, omigosh, you would be FABULOUS!! You are hilarious and I'm sure audiences of all ages would be captivated. :D (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      B. Leekley - I bet that festival was fun! Tell those stories! You just never know where they will take you. I can't wait to hear about it! :)

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 5 years ago from Neverland

      CC this is a great Hub - I didn't even realize people did this for hobby and to earn money! I could totally get with this but of course my stories would include a bit of humor :) I can't wait for the next chapter.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      A few decades ago I went to a storytelling festival in rural Illinois. I was awed by the talent of the professional storytellers. There were stories for all ages. I hope someday I get another chance to go to a storytelling festival.

      Something I have long been intending to try to will one of these days is, when I am working on an original short story, to just tell the story out loud, at first to the air and then to whoever I can get to listen. I think this would help a lot to get at what is essential to the story and what is dross.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      samsons - I had heard of the Nat'l Assn. of Storytellers, but not the Festival. Whoa! I'm REALLY interested. Cool! When? In Jonesborough? That's just a hop, a skip and a jump from me. :D Awesomeness. I'm *really* glad you stopped by. :D Cheers!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Try it, try it, Christina!! You never know until you try. :) If the interest is there, then that's a huge part of the battle already won. :) You can go in "easy," too: go volunteer at an elementary school to READ stories. If you like it and the kids like it, then you know you can do it. (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      John Sarkis - hey there! Thanks for stopping by. :) Hehe, I have to admit that Dostoevsky traumatized me, but then again, I read Crime and Punishment when I was 14 - I was a freshman taking a senior class. Oops. Hehe. I bet your stories are awesome!! Thanks again. (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks, Ruchiara! :) I agree! When you listen to a toddler, their imaginations are WILD! Whoa! It would be really fun to take their mini stories and turn them into big ones. Since writing this hub, I've developed a serious overflow of ideas. Now I'm thinking about a blog. :D

    • samsons1 profile image

      Sam 5 years ago from Tennessee

      I really enjoyed this 'neighbor'!(just across the mountain) My brother use to tell stories in clubs around your area and mine about ten years ago. He's since passed, but I have captured his dream. By the way, every hear of the Nat'l Storytelling Festival in downtown Jonesborough TN? It's always the biggest event in the area and I have a few hubs about it. Storytellers from around the world are drawn for 2 - 3 days. Check it out. Voted up, interesting and beautiful...

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 5 years ago from Sweden

      I love the way you wrote this! It is inspiring and I find myself thinking that maybe I should try this, even though I know that I am not good at telling stories! Very good and a fantastic design also. Voted up and pushing all appropriate buttons!

      Tina

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi cclitgirl, another wonderful hub!... I'm good telling stories, so I've been told. I make people laugh - even when I'm telling a true account! It's probably my love for Dostoevsky and Nietzsche that makes me a little bit on the quirky side, but who knows?...

      Take care and voted useful

      John

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      good one Cyndi. However, I feel that we should learn the art of story telling from toddlers who are so dramatic at that age and surprisingly their vocab is also good.

      I like how you broke down into easy to follow steps.

      voted up and sharing it across!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      alocsin - well, the sky's the limit with regard to making a living at storytelling. I have heard of many who have plenty of venues to work in - but, it takes a lot of effort to get to that level. Some people just stay hobbyists - I am in the latter camp, at least for now. :) Thanks for stopping by! (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Well, Vellur, we have the opposite problem: a story I can write, but a poem? Oy vey. Hehe. Thank you for your feedback and insights - I appreciate you. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      OD - I love hearing stories while camping. It's just so integral to the fun. :) So, yes, storytelling is not just for those who want to be hobbyists, but also for anyone who loves a good story. :D Given your subject matter in your hubs, I'm willing to bet you have some dynamite stories to tell. :)

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'd heard of this art form but have never had a chance to actually see it in action. How much money can a storyteller make? Voting this Up and Useful.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      This is really great. Story tellers have the art of magnetically attracting the audience. I loved your hub, the story towards the end really brought a tear to my eye. Loved the last picture. Voted up. I can write simple poems but a story I never can. Voted up. Awesome.

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Anyone that has worked camp staff before knows the power of a well told story. A well spun story at the opening campfire resonates throughout the week with skits and jokes told by campers and staff alike.

      A well told Hub!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      kelley - I think you're right - it's a little like acting. I bet your kids love how you read to them. Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      MT - aw, thanks for stopping by. :) Hehe, I didn't do the high dive, either. ;) But, like you, I've gotten much better with speaking publicly - it used to give me terrible butterflies. :) Thanks for all your wonderful insights and compliments. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      teaches - I will, I will. :D I'll keep you updated. (HUGS)

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      kelleyward 5 years ago

      That sounds so exciting a little like acting. I try to read books to my kids using a storytelling style. Great ideas here! Thanks for sharing, take care, Kelley

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      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      You have artfully added stories into your hub about how to tell stories. I never mastered the high dive, although I have gotten much better with public speaking. Loved the story of the storyteller and her story. My stories tend to be very boring, and I definitely need to work on them. Love the graphics as well.

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      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Cool! Go to it. Excited for you and looking forward to both.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      teaches - I've thought of this from time to time. I am getting something in the works. :) I'm also thinking about starting a blog with some of my favorite stories. :D

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Consider yourself hugged, cclitgirl! I would love to hear you tell a story sometime... perhaps a hub video is in the making?

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      teaches - I'm reaching through my screen, open arms and giving you one great, big, HUG! You sure do know how to brighten someone's day. Thank you for ALWAYS stopping by. You are a true gem. Thank you for the compliments - since beginning to teach elementary school 5 years ago, I have found that I LOVE storytelling. Between my writing and storytelling, I could have a couple of really cool sidelines. :D

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Storytellers have a knack for entertaining and draw people in to their stories. I have heard some really good ones through the school system. Great job in portraying this talent and giving advice on how to become one.