Why Tell Stories?

Storytelling with the U3A

Why tell Stories?

Storytelling is about sharing – not just the sharing of words and plot, but the sharing of emotions and experiences. It involves a direct coming together of the teller and the listener, the interaction between the teller and listener is unique to all oral communication.
Telling stories uses the imagination of the listener through the teller, with a freedom no other medium can offer.

Finding Stories
Stories can be found in books, magazines and newspapers, on the internet, radio and television. They lurk in our memories; there are stories all around us.

Choosing Stories
Many people find it easier to tell stories which have their roots in their own culture. Make this a starting point. However, if a particular culture holds a great deal of interest for you do not be afraid to explore tales from that culture.

Many storytellers advise starting with Folktales, Myths and Legends which have been passed down through the ages, their value as a story has been proven by their survival, they usually use language which is naturally spoken and contain patterns which are easy to remember. Literary tales are too complex and more appropriate for reading than telling. The retelling of personal stories is more skilful that it seems.

Try not to look at too many stories, instead look at just one or two at a time, note the ones you feel you could tell. It has been said that ‘a storyteller does not choose the stories, the stories choose the teller,’ -. If you are not captured by the story, don’t tell it.

Learning a Story
Learn your story not by heart, but with your heart! Tales have been told for generations, each teller changing and adapting the tale to meet the needs of the time and the audience. Make it your own, and tell it your way

Some people have a good visual memory, they learn by creating a series of pictures in their head or on paper. Others find it easier to remember a story by hearing it, some prefer the written word, and learning key points and facts in the story.

Whatever method, you use to learn your story, do not be afraid to add to the story or change it. A story is a living thing that grows and changes; this is the way of storytellers and is an ‘Oral Tradition’

1. Learning a story from the text

a. Having found a story you wish to tell, read and reread it until you feel that you have it safe in your mind.
b. You may wish to write it out in your own words.
c. Try to tell the story aloud to yourself in a comfortable place, standing or sitting in an armchair, whatever suits you best. Do not worry about stumbling or forgetting things, just tell it. Try to get all the way through the story without stopping. Tell it in your own words!
d. Now go back. If you missed any thing out you can put it in at your next practice.
e. Have you added anything? Did it add to the story as a whole in atmosphere, pace, character, or any thing which can enhance a telling? If it did then you are on your way to making the story your own and becoming a storyteller.

2. Visualising a story

Once the story is fixed in your mind, it will be easier to put a story into your own words.

a. Find somewhere comfortable and retell the story, visualising what happens as you go, see how each scene follows the next like a silent movie.
b. Having retold the story look back, once you have the action firmly fixed in your head start visualising the details. Just close your eyes and see the people in your story, and where they are.

3. Learning a story by the key facts

a. Write the story down in your own words, keep it as brief as possible.
b. Read the story through once or twice.
c. Tell the story out loud, somewhere you feel comfortable.
d. Write the important things to remember – keywords.
e. Tell the story again, see what you have left out or added.
f. Tell your story as though you had been there and seen it.

Telling Your Story

Once you have learned your story and feel it is a good story, you are ready to share it with others.

1. Remember you are telling a story;
2. You are not performing a part you have learned. Memorising a story to tell is like a presentation and is not storytelling
3. Before telling your story – Look round to ensure everyone is settled before you begin.
4. Start clearly.. ‘Once upon a time’ or ‘Far away and long ago’ are both traditional English beginnings; find one that matches your story. It to enables the listeners to key into your voice
5. Make brief eye contact with members of your audience.
6. Enhance the story by varying the rhythm and tone of your voice.
7. Hold the story in your mind’s eye as you tell it.
8. End the story strongly. There are as many traditional endings as there are beginnings:
9. They lived happily, – so may we put on the kettle; – let’s have a cup of tea.’ The alarm woke me.
10 Don’t worry should you make errors or forget elements it’s your story, no one will know.

© Stella Porter, U3A National Storytelling Network Coordinator 2011


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