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wundayatta's avatar

How did you learn to tell a story?

Asked by wundayatta (58617points) March 8th, 2011

I’ve taken a number of workshops. They were useful in different ways. One taught me a very useful lesson. See the story inside your head like a movie, then describe what you are seeing. Another taught me about the hero’s journey—Joseph Campbell’s ideas. I realized today that I learned to tell a story by dancing in a dance workshop for years. It taught me that there is an arch to the story that you can feel, physically, and that if you listen for the change points, then you can ride that baby all the way home.

What about you? Have you had any training? How did you learn? What useful tips have you learned?

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12 Answers

downtide's avatar

I dunno but when I was at Kindergarten I was the only kid who could already read fluently before I started school, and the other kids always begged me to ready the story at storytime, instead of the teacher. I think they liked me reading it because I used to do all the voices and actions.

I’ve always loved reading stories aloud and I still do. The voice can put a lot of life into a story. I’ve also written stories that were specifically intended to be read aloud.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I’ve learned what skills I have from extensive reading, some creative writing and from listening to live story tellers when I can.

Cruiser's avatar

I learned through a very good teacher in college who taught me to use care in crafting the story and she told me to simply paint with words and use lots of vibrant colors when you can.

Scooby's avatar

I read the Hobbit as a kid, that set the bar…............ :-/

gorillapaws's avatar

Foreshadowing is a very powerful technique. It baits on the reader with things to come and drives the story forward. Dickens was a master at building suspense in this way. Always leave your readers wanting more.

Kayak8's avatar

I grew up in a family of story tellers and it was expected that we would each be able to tell a good story (over dinner, at family gatherings,etc.). This was true on both sides of my extended family so it was often hard to get a word in edge-wise, but I learned how to tell a good story (what to leave in, what to leave out, when to tell it chronologically, how to set it up so the end really wraps things up, etc.). Just listening to so many good story tellers in my family for so many years, it kind of rubbed off on me. My sister is the same way.

Soubresaut's avatar

Like @Kayak8, my family would tell stories. My sister and my favorites were always about the spunky pets my parents had before we came along; told well they’ll get anyone laughing. But my family has many. We’ll hear about old-new ones or experience new-new ones, and when people come over, out they all pour, in four voices.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had one place where I was told how to tell a story, and I’m not always sure if I do “know how”.
I do know there’s a rhythm, even if I’m not always on it. Good story telling, the speaker isn’t afraid to stall, change pace, go off on tangents, but they never take it too far; they somehow know exactly when to pull off of main story, for filler or for comedy or for a building of anticipation, and then plunge back. The story grows in your mind as they tell it, and soon you’ve got a little world of their story that you’re in, and can return to whenever.

I read a book, Walking on Water by Derrick Jensen, and in it, while he talks about a lot, one of the points was that everyone is a natural story teller, should they let themselves be. That we all have that natural ability, that natural timing, instinctually. And, as with everything, it’d be a unique style all our own, naturally.—The most fun part is he talks about storytelling by telling a series of stories.
He talks about teaching two different classes: one at a college, and one in a prison. How none of the people were any less of a storyteller, and many of the people who had never been “taught” to write before brought their class to tears with their words. They discovered how to, with a little guidance to that place inside themselves.

Earthgirl's avatar

It’s funny but my sister and I used to tell each other stories by actually pretending that we were seeing a movie play inside our heads. We would close our eyes and describe what was happening. We shared a bedroom and it was something we would do when we were going to sleep at night. We would take turns telling stories.

ETpro's avatar

My dad was a terrific story teller. He dreamed up stories and spun the yarn each night till I got so groggy I’d be off to bed. Each night’s episode came to some critical climax at just the right time, but picked up with the next night’s episode. I don’t know why he never wrote a children’s story, because he could spin the most spectacular, spellbinding tales imaginable.

6rant6's avatar

I remember sitting at the dinner table many nights when my younger sister would wax not so eloquently about whatever occurred to her. The interjection someone always made was, “and to make a long story longer…”

Austinlad's avatar

I’ve always been told I’m a good story teller, as was my dad and my uncles. I attribute whatever skill I have to my advertising days, which taught me presentation skills, and from listening to classic storytellers like Garrison Keillor. Here are a few good tips

SavoirFaire's avatar

The same way I learned to tell jokes: my family. You knew you had learned when they stopped making fun of you afterward.

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