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The Story Carousel


Disciplines > Storytelling > Telling stories > The Story Carousel

Basic rules | Variations | See also


The Story Carousel is an entertaining exercise for a group of people. This can be done at a storytelling convention or a dinner party. There are two versions you can use, as described below.

Basic rules

Sit in circle

Everyone should be sat in a circle, so each person can talk to one person on their left and one on their right.

Think of a story

Start with by asking each person to think of a short story. Give them a few minutes to think about this. Note that the story should take no more than a couple of minutes to recount. Longer stories will significantly lengthen the whole session. You can do this if you wish, but do be aware of the effect on time.

If you have time beforehand, you can ask them to think about this somewhat longer beforehand, such as before dinner or at the start of the conference.

Tell the story

Then every other person tells their story to the person on their left. The listener attends to the storyteller and tries to remember the story.

Note that to help this process it is useful if there is an even number of people. If there is an odd number, one person will have to sit out each time. This person should change each time.

Pass it on

The listener then passes on the story to their left, telling it to the next person. Note that there are two variations on this ('fidelity' or 'elaboration'), as described below.


The process now repeats until the stories go full circle and each person has been told their own story again by the person on their right.

When done, you may discuss what happened.


Reality or Fiction

The first variation is whether the story told is a real story or something made up. Real stories can have more immediacy, but can be less exciting.

Fidelity or Elaboration

In 'Fidelity', the goal when re-telling the story to the next person is repeat it as accurately as you can. Of course you will not be able to repeat every word, but do try to sustain the main facts. When the carousel is completed, ask people how close to the original story the one they heard was. This variant shows the effect of 'Chinese whispers'.

In 'Elaboration' the goal when re-telling the story to the next person is to improve on the story in some way. You have carte blanche to change the story, but should keep the basic theme. Note that the two-minute timeframe should be sustained, so it is not just a matter of adding things. When the carousel is completed, ask people if they recognize their story at all and whether the story they hear has improved.

See also

Plots, Co-creating stories

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