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The art of storytelling

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By Rona Barbourprofessional storyteller

Rona Barbour shares a few tricks of the trade to help you bring stories to life

People have been telling stories to pass on values and information, and to make sense of life, as long as we have had language. Storytelling is effective in relaying information because it engages our imagination, hearts and minds. There is something in a storytelling experience for everyone.

Storytelling

Dry data is boring, and delivering a set of facts and figures using this method means it is likely to be forgotten as quickly as it is absorbed. Because story engages us on so many levels, we easily retain it in our memory to use it as needed. The natural form of story makes sense to human beings. It contains all that we care about: people, problems and solutions. A story is really just a mass of information organised in the form of a situation with characters who we can relate to; settings we can envisage; problems we want to know the answer to; and resolutions that give us hope. Stories are food for thought. They help us to discern right from wrong, and give us the heroes and heroines we wish to model ourselves on.

A well-developed and presented story can hold the interest of an entire audience, and it will reach out and touch them at any age. Knowing and applying the few simple basics of storytelling will help strengthen your stories.

The storytelling persona

The most successful storytellers will tell you that they have a totally separate persona which they adopt when working. Many will also tell you that it was something they only realised later, and developed over time. In other words, they were not initially aware they needed this separate identity, but that it came with experience. So, with this valuable experience now shared, remember before you begin to tell a story to take on your storytelling persona.

  • Choose your persona and act it out right from the start. For example, you could be the ‘storytelling fairy’ or the ‘old woman of the woods’.
  • Whatever you choose as your persona, think of yourself as that person, and act and dress accordingly – your storytelling performance will be better for it.
  • If you wish, you can have more than one storytelling persona.
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