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How to Become a Storyteller

Updated on January 17, 2018
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Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

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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.

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© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun

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