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Four Es of storytelling

 

Disciplines > Storytelling > Telling stories > Four Es of storytelling

Energy | Expression | Engagement | Extras | See also

 

Here are four Es that, if you can use in your storytelling, will enliven your stories and excite your audience. Easy, really.

Energy

It is your energy that brings the story alive. If you tell it in a flat way, just reading the words, it quickly dies, but if you have an energy about you, then this transfers to the audience.

Sometimes it helps the story if your are animated, perhaps even walking or jumping around, half-acting various parts as you tell the story.

At other times, just sitting still and telling the story from a quiet place works well.

Which method you use depends on a combination of the story, the audience and you.

The story

Some stories work well told quietly, for example tragedies and horror stories. Other stories may work well with more animation, such as adventures and comedies.

The audience

If the audience is young children then animation often helps (unless you want them to stay quiet). Adults may prefer a quieter style, though an animated style may provoke as needed.

You

Although the above factors are important, it may be that you just cannot do animated storytelling for the life of you. Or perhaps you find it difficult sitting still. So adapt your style to the storytelling. Each teller is different and yours is just another way of doing it.

Which is best? Your audience will tell you this by their reactions.

Expression

As with energy, your voice should be used to tell the story in a way that engages the audience.

Tonal variation

Importantly, you should never tell the story in a flat monotone as this will send your audience to sleep. Vary the pitch, volume, timbre, etc. of your voice to keep the story alive.

Do not do this randomly. Talk quietly about secret things. Talk loudly and quickly in battle. Speak excitedly in a car chase. And so on.

Facial variation

Your audience are probably looking at you, so communicate with your face also. You have 90 muscles in your face so use them to show excitement, sadness and other emotions as appropriate.

Characters

Where characters speak, change your voice in some way. If you can, use different accents, pitch, etc. so the audience can quickly identify each character.

Engagement

If you can engage your audience in the story, then they will be drawn in all the more.

Questions

Address them directly, ask them questions that engage.

  • Now what do you think happens next? Draw closer and I'll tell you such secrets you have never heard before...
  • So she was left alone. I wonder how she felt. Can you guess? How would you feel there, with the dragon below and the cold wind cutting through your clothes.
  • The detective was left confused. Perhaps you are confused too? Or maybe you have some ideas. Where do you think she should go next?

Enacting

Get members of the audience to wear prop clothes and pose or act out parts of the story. There is nothing like being a part of the story for feeling a part of the story. Get them to shout, scream and verbally engage.

This works particularly well with young children who have not yet learned the inhibitions of society. Sometimes you can also get adults to let go. When they do, they will have tremendous fun, perhaps for the first time in years.

Extras

Bring in other elements to keep the audience attending and interested.

Props

Use props. Have a box beside you and pull out props to elaborate. Have guns, masks, hats, dummies, umbrellas, and so on. These are very effective with young children but can also be effective for adults too, if done well.

The production of props and putting on of clothes and masks can also be done with due decorum, either secretly turning around and changing as you turn, or putting on the change with a visible flourish.

Effects

Perhaps not the special effects of movies, but you can still introduce bangs, splashes and other surprises that will keep your audience on your toes.

Especially if you have someone backstage, they can slap together pieces of wood for gunshot, wobble sheets of steel for thunder, fire flashguns for lightning and so on.

See also

Use of Language

 

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