Article

Becoming a Storyteller

Tips for brainstorming, outlining, revising, and performing finished tales 

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

The first step to telling your own story is to write it. The idea for your story may be based on an old tale or come from an original plot, but it must be put into your own words and, then, told with your own style of telling. There are many ways to tell the same story. I always imagine the stories I perform as plays in which I can be all the characters, and my words can also construct the sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and sensations of the imaginary world of the story. When you learn to tell a story, you must imagine "as if you were there." Just as you do when you perform in a play.

 

Choose a favorite folktale from your school library or one of the multicultural folktales.

First: Make an outline of each important plot point of the tale in beginning, middle, and end order. This outline is a map that will remind us where the story is going, even if we experiment by taking a few detours. As you create your own version of the story, you may want to add details and scenes that no one has ever thought of before. The oral tradition of storytelling has passed stories down through the ages and all around the world. In all those tellings, many new versions have been created. Don't be afraid to add your voice to this rich oral tradition.

Second: Now, start writing your first scene. Look at your outline and brainstorm. Work in a group to get lots of ideas. You may discover new actions to add to your outline or change the order of the outlined actions. You may make several outlines before you are done.

Ask yourself these questions about the new scene you will be writing. Your answers are the building blocks of the scene.
(See it all in your head as if you are watching a play.)

Who is in the scene?
What is happening?
Why is there a problem?
Where and when does the scene take place?
Can you describe what the setting looks like?
Who comes on stage?
What are they doing?
Why are they stopped?
By whom? By what?

List the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching details of the pretend world of the play. Imagine you can hear what the characters are saying. The conversation between characters in a play is called dialogue. Together imagine and talk out the dialogue of the scene. One person can be the scribe and writes it down with the name of the character written above the words being spoken. Take turns being different characters. Pretend to walk and talk like them.

Third: On your own, imagine that you are one of the characters in the play. Write down the story from your point of view. Be sure to describe what you see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. Pretend to be the character and speak this story out loud. A character's long speech in a play is called a monologue. Share these monologues with your team so you get to know all the characters in the play.

Fourth: Now, imagine you are the audience. Using pieces of the dialogue, the monologues, and the descriptive details which you and your friends have already written, write a new version of the story describing the whole imaginary world you have been brainstorming. Tell this story out loud. When you speak the words of the characters, let yourself move and talk like them. Sometimes you will narrate the details of the scenes that you can see in your mind's eye. Sometimes you may become the characters and feel what they are feeling. Let yourself be in the middle of the world of the story, describing to the listener what is happening all around you as if it were real.

  • Subjects:
    Writing Process
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