103. Oral storytelling, Part 2

In my last blog, I suggested six approaches to oral storytelling, hoping to encourage all of us to consider telling more stories to our friends and relatives. As a reminder, here they are again:

  • Keep the story focused to one main tale!
  • Keep your story short (less than five minutes)
  • Feel free to embellish your story.
  • Tell your own story.
  • Practice
  • Have a beginning, a middle, and an end to your story.

One point I failed to mention is the idea of being animated. Use your body to emphasize points, raise your voice a bit here and there, or sing a short ditty or two in the midst of the story. Younger children especially are drawn to a well-animated story.

Oral storytelling is especially meaningful when we share our stories with our grandchildren. I recommend  this website for grandparents who would like to become better storytellers. Grandparent Storytelling.

Some readers have suggested that these points may be well and good, but they have trouble getting started. Other readers ask about which kind of stories to tell. They tell us, My life was not all that remarkable, what stories could I possibly tell?, or Where do I turn for ideas of stories to tell?

There are countless ways to get started. Just in case you need some encouragement, here are some suggested starting points to consider:

Deliberately ponder how the world has changed since you were born, remembering things that came into existence for the first time. My mind immediately turned to things like television, computers, and the Internet. Are there interesting stories about the first time you saw TV? Where were you? Who were you with? What was it like? When did you firs see color TV?

What was your first memory as a child? This is an interesting exercise. Sometimes it elicits a story of wonder, of surprise, of Christmas or a trip. The memory may bring into play images that your grandchildren could not imagine. For example, I remember a cast-iron hand pump at the sink in the kitchen where we lived. I was 3 years old and  remember trying to pump the handle and make water come up from the cistern. Cistern? What is that? Oh, did you not know about cisterns? Let me tell you a story.

What was daily life like when you were 12 years old? Who was in your social circles? How was your house was heated? What was it like to live with your siblings. Did you have to sleep three to a bed, like we did? Did you have to do chores? What kind of food did you eat? Who cooked the meals? What was it like having a single parent? Just let your remembering wonder, jotting down ideas that pop into your head.

Tell stories of your life passions. Why do I love gardening? What is that all about? I can tell stories about bugs in the soil and invading weeds, as well as the beauty of a red, ripe tomato. What was your passion? Why did you pursue ventriloquism? What happened to your life as a result of doing what you loved to do? Again, there are endless paths from which to choose engaging stories.

In preparation for my next blog on written storytelling, I suggest that you take time, right now, to make a short list of stories you would like to tell orally. This will also give you a starting point for written story telling.

Most of all, HAVE FUN! This is not a matter of literary genius, it is a matter of passing on our stories to future generations.

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