My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is aimed at the reader who has already had some experience with storytelling and is ready to learn more. Given the authors professional background, much of the book is focused on ‘performance storytelling’ so may not seem all that relevant to those that are interested in storytelling in other settings (particularly business/organisations). However, I particularly enjoyed the chapters on ‘What is a Story?’, ‘Learning the Story’ and ‘Discovering the Meaning’. The information in these chapters is valuable and applicable to all storytelling, regardless of the context/environment. Compared to ‘The Story Factor’, ‘Improving your Storytelling’ is a more practically focused book and offers more ‘how-to’ type information.
My notes from Improving your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics for All Who Tell Stories in Work and Play
[Disclaimer: The notes below are rough, and may be a mixture of direct quotes, paraphrasing, and my own thoughts/ideas/reminders. They’re written here primarily for me (so they may not make much sense out of context, especially for those who haven’t read the book)].
(11) Whether you think of yourself as a ‘storyteller’ or not, you tell people what happened to you.
(13) The best assistance doesn’t ‘fix’ your story or tell you what to do. The best help improves your ability to make your own decisions. It doesn’t paint the screen.
(14-15) Need to think in the present. Tell stories for the current situation. Meet the requirements of the moment.
(22) Key expressive tools: tone of voice, facial expression and gestures, posture, eye behaviour, and orientation in space.
(23) Theatre game – gibberish. One person storyteller, the other is translator. Storyteller tells story one sentence at a time in gibberish (the more expressive, the better).
(24) Tone of voice is so strong that whenever it conflicts with word meanings, it always prevails.
(32-33) Non reversible time. The listener cannot go backward in an oral story. Story must work within the limits of the listener’s memory.
(35) ‘Dare to pause’
(42) Preferred modes of imagery. The way experiences are stored. Remember getting up in the morning – how did I retrieve my images of the morning from my memory? -> visual, sound, feelings…
- See the sights. Imagine every aspect of the scene’s colour, shape, light and brightness, texture, motion and perspective.
- Hear the sounds.
- Feel the muscle tension and movements.
(76-77) What is a story? Storyteller and the listeners may have different concept of what a story should be. Sometimes conscious/explicit, other times unspoken. eg. believability of plot, kinds of characters…
(83) Learning a story about a personal experience. First telling – spontaneous and unselfconscious. Telling story as a way of processing what happened. Listeners are ‘sounding boards’.
Unconscious reaction to cues of listeners – what’s interesting, confusing…
Key way to learn (and develop) personal story – tell it informally, many times.
People often think that storytelling is something different from what they already do – something novel, difficult, requiring special effort.
(85) Dangers of ‘practicing’. Instead of learning from responses of listeners how to communicate effectively, you may have relied on your idea of what you will communicate well.
Practicing can lead to becoming less sensitive to your listeners in the long term.
Reciting v communicating.
(86) What if story didn’t happen to me?
Personal story -> first step is remembering it.
Story that didn’t happen to you -> imagine it.
Then grow the story in the same way.
(87) Most Important Thing – MIT. Can provide valuable guide to decisions about telling.
Exercise in discovering meaning – ‘The Stonecutter’.
What the story means to you influences how you tell it. What you emphasise, the words you use… Achieving second, third, fourth goals must not interfere with achieving MIT.
(92-94) Whether or not to state meaning – and range of ways to do it. Storyteller or character. Within story or before/after.
(98) MIT also helps you create appropriate outline/structure.
(120) ‘Before I can tell a story as helper, I must usually tell it first as beneficiary‘. Need to consider for whose sake the storytelling event is taking place.
Two questions – am I ready to tell it with my attention on my audience’s needs rather than on my own? Will it be a true gift for them?
(125) Four key jobs as storyteller when performing for an audience: uniting, inviting, offering, acknowledging.
(130) ‘Relaxed confidence’ helps audience accept storyteller’s invitation.
(132) Offering differs from inviting primarily because it does not require a response from audience. Offering is an attitude, not a specific action.
Resist continuation of ‘invitation’ after it has been accepted. Need for reassurance.
(149) Rehearsal buddies.
Levels of preparedness -> ‘talking about’ the story, telling fragments…
(183) Three kinds of helpers – hired help, “parallel playmates” and “barter buddies”.