HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

July 16, 2007

The art of storytelling

By SAM SCHOMMER
I will admit it, I am not a very good storyteller.

The stories that I tell sound so good in my head, and they’re incredibly hilarious while they’re in there, but when I get an audience, the tales don’t sound quite as funny.

I just don’t understand. Why is it that my stories end up with people giving me a blank look, like, “that’s it?”

So, in an effort to improve my storytelling ability that seems to be lacking, I have compiled some helpful aids that we who have difficulty in this area can use.

Now first off, we have to focus on the story itself.

Stories can be a folk tale, such as a story from oral tradition about a fairy tale princess and her prince charming or something.

They can be historic, about someone from the past that you heard about through another, or learned about in social studies class.

A story, however, is most likely going to be one of personal experience.

The most entertaining stories are, of course, ones that make your audience roll on the floor laughing, clutching their stomachs begging you to stop.

The other end of the personal story spectrum is a story that has some real emotional value to it.

A story that jerks at the heart strings of even the toughest guy is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Now you run into a problem when your stories either don’t have these effects, or your audience has already heard all of your good stories.

I have also learned that if your story has no definite purpose, it probably shouldn’t be told.

So, essentially, people want an entertaining or thought provoking story.

I should also mention that you must make sure that the story you are telling is appropriate for your audience.

A story about your cat is not going to go over very well among a group of dog-lovers.

Now that you have a good story, it’s all about the delivery.

Some exaggeration and embellishment are often required to keep your audience’s attention.

It’s all right to exaggerate some of the details, as long as they don’t sound completely whimsical.

I can almost guarantee that your audience would rather hear an interesting story that has a few made up details, than a true, yet completely boring story.

A good story must be told with enthusiasm and confidence.

Make sure you have your details right, or at least make sure they sound like they are correct.

If you question yourself, or stop to think about what happened for a moment, chances are your audience will get impatient and lose interest in your story all together.

So make sure you have your story straight and if you forget a little detail, that’s all right.

When telling a story, it is important to keep it somewhat simple because your audience is most likely not going to be able to understand complex terminology.

The shorter the story, the easier it is for your audience to pay attention to the entire thing.

Another point in storytelling that I have often over looked is the wrap-up, the punch line.

Apparently, a good story has a punch line that leaves your audience captivated, and helps them to remember your well thought-out story.

Without a good ending, a story is just not complete; I know this from experience.

So the next time you are sitting around a campfire, or playing cards with your buddies, and you are encouraged to tell a story, remember that if you tell a lame story, they will probably never let you live it down.

Trust me on this one.