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Short Cut to Being an Awesome Storyteller, Sort Of

Short Cut to Being an Awesome Storyteller, Sort Of


Not everyone is blessed with the gift of the gap but that doesn’t mean you have to shrug your shoulders in resignation. You can still be a superstar storyteller in your child’s eyes if you follow these simple steps. Well, sort of.

Step 1: Pick a Story You Like – Engage Yourself Before Others

You won’t be able to engage your audience if you aren’t engaged with the story yourself. So, first step is to pick a book (or a story) that you like. Popular fairy tales are a good starting point. In my storytelling workshop, participants usually practice with the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

Step 2: Prepare the Story – Know the Milestones

Unless you’re able to think quickly on your feet, most of us would feel more confident when we have prepared for the session. Know the story well; read it over and over again until you know the story by heart and the content on every page. That being said, I’m not expecting you to memorize the story word for word like a script. When preparing for the story, ask yourself: "Will omitting this point change the overall story?" If it does, that probably means it’s a crucial to the story and you will want to earmark it as milestone.

Keep the milestones between 5 to 7. An average brain won’t be able to function effectively beyond 7 key points.

Step 3: Own the Story – Freestyling In-Between

Don’t be a slave to the story. A good storyteller is in control of the story and appears to be able to retell the story differently each time. Lets take Red Riding Hood for example.

The milestones are: 1. Red Riding Hood goes off to visit grandma. 2. She meets a wolf along the way who misdirects her. 3. The wolf races over to grandma’s place and swallows grandma. 4. Red Riding Hood comes along and notices something is amiss. 5. The wolf attempts to eat Red Ridding Hood. 6. The Woodcutter overhears the scream and comes to the rescue.

It doesn’t really matter if Red Riding Hood cycles to grandma’s place or skips to a tune, and it wouldn’t make a difference if she stopped midway to pick flowers or bought half dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for grandma. As long as you know the milestones of the story, you can make up anything else in between without ruining a good tale.

Step 4: Practice, Practice, Practice – Focus On Pacing

A professional storyteller will be able to bring the story to live through varying intonation and pacing, clear vocal projection, proper emaciation of words, and an animated body language. This sounds like juggling flaming knives while solving a mathematics formula with your foot to a newbie storyteller.

If I had to pick one skillset for you to work on that would add immediate panache to your performance it would be pacing. Know when to pause for suspense and when to speed up for action. Telling a story with the right pacing will engage your audience enough for them to forgive you for the lack of dramatic flair.

You may want to practice in front of a mirror or into a recording device for playback. Personally, I find the best practice comes from actually telling a story to live audience.

Step 5: The Big Secret to Storytelling – Making Eye Contact

The final tip is the easiest of all – Look into your audience eyes and hold their gaze.

The book you’re holding, if any, should merely be backdrop to your story. The focus should be on you, the storyteller. And the best way to capture attention is to look your audience in the eye. It’s the trick of the trade that not many storytellers talk about or are even aware of.

I hope that these 5 tips will help you jump from being a noob to sounding like a seasoned storyteller in no time.

If you’re interested in advanced storytelling tips, drop us a message as Owl Readers Club is currently exploring conducting storytelling workshops for the very young and the young at heart and we would be excited to know if this may be of interest to you. 

Written by Eugene Tay, founder of Brain & Butter and Monsters Under the Bed.

When Eugene was a young boy, he wanted to be an astronaut. When that didn't take off, he decided that he was going to be like Indiana Jones and explore the world as an archaeologist. Eventually, he figured out how he can do both. That's when he became a writer.

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