Beginning Storytelling

Harnessing a Natural Story-Learning Process

Harnessing a Natural Story-Learning Process

Have you ever found yourself with a group of good friends, sharing informal stories over dinner? Someone begins by telling about a humorous event that happened recently. Then another shares a similar experience that happened years before.

Before you know it, you and your friends (or family) have told numerous stories, and the entire group feels united, engaged, and satisfied.

But Formal Storytelling….

On the other hand, have you had an opposite experience with “formal” storytelling—in school, in your community, or at work?

Your entire experience was shaded by your anxiety. At the end, if your listeners applaud, you can hardly notice. You can’t wait to sit down or even leave the event, already playing over in your mind the moments when you hesitated, said the wrong thing, or even left out a whole section you had meant to include.

What is the difference?…

"The Most Important Storytelling Advice NOT to Follow"

"The Most Important Storytelling Advice NOT to Follow"

What are the most common problems of beginning storytellers? Nearly every struggling beginner has urgent concerns like these:

  1. Practicing is hard. I put it off, then get more and more desperate as my performance date approaches.
  2. How do I remember the story? What if I forget in the middle? How can I memorize?
  3. What if they don’t listen to me? Aren’t there some tricks I can learn, to guarantee their attention?
  4. For me, the only word that follows “performance” is “anxiety.” My mouth is dry, my palms are sweaty, my voice is unsteady. Instead of telling this story, couldn’t I just die?

I believe that all these common storytelling preoccupations stem, at least in part, from the same causes! In fact, they can all be cured (and, even more easily, prevented) quite simply. 

“Beginning, Middle, End.” Huh?

“Beginning, Middle, End.” Huh?

Many of us take for granted the idea of “Beginning,” “Middle” and “End” with regard to story structure. But what do those words actually mean? Is there a more helpful way to look at plot? How does all this relate to eating a sandwich?

I Object! The Voice of a Storytelling Dissenter

I Object! The Voice of a Storytelling Dissenter

I searched in Google recently for “elements of a story.” The many results were dominated by topics like:

  • The 3 parts of a story;
  • The 4 elements of a story;
  • The 5 steps of a plot;
  • The 7 (or the 8 or the 12 or the 17) stages of the Hero’s Journey.

I read quite a few of these articles (and even a few books on Amazon) about the parts of finished stories. Interestingly, they all seemed to assume that knowledge of these parts is essential to making a story.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that these lists of story elements are useless. But I object to the idea that simply knowing them helps us create stories. In fact, they can easily get in the way.