Guidance for Storytelling

We thought it would be good to offer some guidance and thoughts on telling stories at Joe’s Yarns.

Storytelling: who is it we are looking for?

We are looking for people who would like to try storytelling. People who want to share stories from their lives, circumstances or locations. If you decide to have a go then don’t worry if you’re not feeling confident about it. No one ever does.

Storytelling: what is it we are looking for?

Oral stories aren’t novels or thrillers. The inspiration or seed for a story can pop up anywhere and the simplest of tales are absorbing and fascinating if told simply and truthfully. When I say truthfully I’m not saying a story can’t contain untruths, all stories do. I mean you have to be true to the telling that’s all, believe in your story and everyone else will too. Don’t make an effort to be funny, if there’s humour in the tale then just tell it as it is, people will laugh and smile in the right places. Equally if a story is sad don’t be shy about telling it. Sadness is just as effective in engaging people’s attention as humour is. Your story should be no longer than 10 minutes but if it’s shorter than that don’t worry; sometimes the most beautiful things come in tiny packages!

Storytelling: about what?

We are not looking for myths, legends or fictional stories but stories from life. The inspirations or seeds for a story are everywhere they can be very specific or general. Here are some of mine and I’m willing to bet you have just as many you can draw on:-

  • Mackerel fishing with my uncle on an early summer’s morning off Port Gaverne in Cornwall
  • My Grandchildren (loads of tales!!)
  • Working on my uncle’s farm (a fair few tales)
  • A local vicar
  • Picnicking at St Anthony’s Well in the Forest of Dean
  • Picnicking on the Cotswold escarpment looking over the Severn valley
  • Flying kites
  • School days stories – embarrassing, humorous, shocking and in one instance very dark!
  • Hitchhiking as a teenager
  • A car accident
  • Holidays
  • A serious illness
  • Work

Storytelling: how?

Once an idea or seed grabs you, think around it. The seed doesn’t have to be the start of a story it can appear anywhere. In most of my stories the seed pops in long after I’ve begun. Perhaps you will want to work on the story until you know it by heart; if you do this don’t lose spontaneity and make into it a recitation. For me a story is like a pattern, I know where I want to begin and end and the path I want to take along the way. The background of the pattern changes every time I tell it.

Do a little planning. It’s hard to give a precise recipe of how to prepare as everyone is different. Unless you really want to, don’t spend time writing your yarn out and refining the language. After all you won’t be reading it or reciting it.

Concentrate on listing the main points of the story. Filling in the gaps will come naturally, trust me.

Practice as often as you can. Eg: In the car driving to work, in front of a mirror walking through the park, in front of loved ones who are willing to listen or if they won’t listen use the family pet! Even silent practice is worth while. I regularly practice stories in my head when I’m in bed. If I’m lucky I get to the end before I fall asleep!

Remember always tell your story not read it, this isn’t a writing club.

Storytelling: why?

First off, to have and bring fun. Sometimes stories have to be told. Perhaps to honour the name of a loved one or share the wonders of the natural world; this is a perfectly proper reason for telling it. In addition to this, telling a story be it sad, funny or serious is exhilarating. When your story grabs the attention of your listeners there’s a connection or togetherness which is wonderful to experience.

Storytelling: when?

At the next Joe’s Yarns of course. Get practising and don’t be late; we start at 19:00 on the last Wednesday of every month!

Storytelling: where?

At the wonderful Smokey Joe’s Coffee Bar of course in Bennington Street in Cheltenham. Now stop the dawdling and get along or you’ll be late!