Eight Simple Steps To Becoming A Darn Good Storyteller

by Kevin Strauss (c) 2002

Even the most experienced storytellers had to start somewhere. By following the eight simple steps below, you can improve your storytelling skills and “stretch your storytelling muscles.”

1 Find a story that you like. It could be a story in a children’s book, a fairy tale that you heard as a child, or a memory that you had from childhood. The key to being a good storyteller is to start with a story that you like. If you like a story, then you will be able to project that enthusiasm to your audience.

2. Read over the story several times to get a feel for the story. Read it once for the plot, once for the characters and once for the setting. Then put the book down and try to tell the story without the book. This is by far the scariest part of being a storyteller. But many tellers are surprised with how well they can tell a story after reading it just a few times.

3. Another way to learn a story is to read through it and then write down an outline of the important events in the story. For instance in the Aesop’s Fable “Wolf and Dog” the important events include:

a) a hungry wolf goes to farm to find food
b) wolf and dog discuss jobs
c) wolf decides that he doesn’t want to work the way dog does.

If a storyteller remembers just those three critical images, he or she will be able to tell that story.

4. Once you know a story, try adding details to the story. Change the character voices. Add some details to the setting or characters. Young children often love hearing the same story over and over again, and that will give you ample opportunities to practice a story. Tellers often find that the more they tell a story, the better the story becomes.

5. If your story has a moral to it, like in “Aesop’s Fables,” don’t tell your child the moral of a story. If you want your child to think about what a story means for him or her, ask them what they think it means. Keep in mind that a story can mean different things to different people. Asking a child what they think a story means can also open up the lines of communication between parents and children.

6. Find new stories or old favorites at your library at 398.2 (or j398.2 for the children’s section).

7. Some beginning storytellers like the security of having the storybook in front of them as they tell. Try to resist that urge. A person becomes a “storyteller” when they can tell a story without the book. By using the “outline technique” above, most tellers can remember enough of the story to tell it.

8. If you want to further develop your storytelling skills, contact local storytelling groups or attend storytelling events to see how the professionals take part in this art form. For new tellers in the Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois) check out the Northlands Storytelling Network. For information on storytelling guilds, conferences and activities across the United States, visit the National Storytelling Network website. Or check out other resources on my Links page.