This week is National Storytelling Week so what better time than to tap into the creative genius mind of our resident storyteller, Neil Martin, to ask for some insight and advice for new and aspiring storytellers. If you’ve been thinking about getting into storytelling, whether that’s in your professional life with the young people you work with or in your private life with your family and friends, but have been feeling a bit nervous – have a gander at Neil’s top tips below and then get out there and telling stories!
Listen to other storytellers
This is a nice easy one to start with and makes so much sense. If you’re thinking about dipping your toe in the world of storytelling, try and immerse yourself in it first. Go to events and listen to other people tell stories, watch storytellers on YouTube, see if there are any storytellers local to you that you can go and check out. This will give you inspiration as well as exposing you to the wide variety of different storytelling styles that are out there.
Whilst it’s tempting to read out loud from a book when you’re starting out, it really is fantastic for your confidence if you can tell a story without a book in hand. In order to get started, why not try and memorise a really short story that you can use to get used to telling stories by yourself. You could even start with a classic fairytale that you know inside out so you can just get used to the public speaking element of it, without having to worry too much about the story itself.
Involve your audience
This one is a particularly good tip if you are telling stories to an audience with children. Kids love to be part of the process and it’s so easy to do. You could start the story then go around the group, asking each child to add the next sentence and see where their amazing imaginations take you! You could get them to use props that they’ve made earlier in the session if you’re at a Forest School session or you could ask some questions to give them some choices about where the story goes, for example, does the adventuring pixie travel down the path along the river or head up the mountain? This latter suggestion is particularly good for a medium or longer length story.
Involve your surroundings
Assuming that you’re telling stories outside, you can use the natural surroundings around you to help you with your story. This could be in the guise of a story trail on the floor that you can follow – a trail of things (either natural objects or perhaps story stones) that you can pick up off the floor to help remember the story. Or you can spontaneously find inspiration from the woods around you – a particularly distinctive looking tree or nearby babbling brook might find a home in your story with ease.
Find your style
Spend some time figuring out what works for you. For remembering stories, maybe playing a CD of stories on repeat whilst driving would help or perhaps you’d rather go for a walk and practise your stories in your head to cement them. Make sure that you incorporate your personality when you start storytelling, play to your strengths and make it your own; maybe this means using a musical instrument, dressing up, incorporating an art storyboard, using props or costumes or perhaps you’ve got an impressive repertoire of voices! Whatever comes naturally to you, lean into that – you don’t want to be a carbon copy of someone else, you want to own and celebrate your own unique storytelling style!
Have fun and enjoy it
Although it can be a little daunting talking in front of other people, try and relax and enjoy it! In regards to making mistakes, unless it’s really well known story, no one will notice mistakes so just keep going. Even if it is a well known story, it’s your version of the story anyway so try and embrace any mistakes and enjoy the process. Remember why you’re doing it – presumably because it’s something you enjoy and want to share with others – try and focus on that and enjoy the experience, whatever it brings.
We hope that those have been helpful to some of you! For those of you looking for more Storytelling resources, our lovely Neil has also indulged us by taking part in a podcast episode which you can find here, as well as several YouTube videos which are all available on our channel here. And if you’d like to take things one step further, we are running a Storytelling Workshop next month and would love to see you there and help you tap into your inner storyteller! But for now, all that’s left to say is Happy Storytelling Week folks!
Author: Neil Martin, Forest School Trainer & Storyteller (with some extra padding from Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader)
Date: Thursday 1st February 2024