The Art of Story Telling

by Barry Neal


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By Barry Neal

You cannot tell a story without an audience.  There is a joke that says the only difference between a stand-up comic and a crazy person is an audience.  So, the most important component of storytelling is making sure your audience is listening.  You can do this by making sure your story starts off with a bang.  Every great movie, play, or novel follows this format.  Would you continue to read a book that bores you in the first chapter?  Also, every great story builds to an exciting climactic ending. An average movie can be saved by a tremendous ending, whether it’s an awesome war scene or where the two star crossed lovers finally get together.


Brevity is the soul of wit.   In effective storytelling, you need to identify where the joke or punch line is.  Once you identify where the joke or punch line is, it becomes your job to get there as quickly as possible without losing too much that the joke is not  funny.


You must choose every word carefully so it fits into one of two criteria; either be funny or advance  the story in a critical way.  If the word does neither it should be taken out.


A great storyteller will not just say the words but will use their entire body and vocal range to help paint a picture of the story.  By using your voice, you can differentiate characters, give attitudes, and illustrate a range of emotions. 


Each character should have their own voice and cadence to their dialogue.  By giving each character in you story their own distinctive voice, it gives the audience an inside look into what kind of person they are and how you feel about them.  By using different voice inflections, you can lead your audience to the punch line of your story. 


Jerry Seinfeld is the master of voice inflection as his voice goes up a few decibels when he hits the punch line.  The audience hears the variation in his voice and becomes used to laughing. His voice rising is their indication that something funny is being said. In a perfect world, the audience would be attentively sitting and taking in every word of our story.


Your body can also help demonstrate a story.  It is always easier to show people the story than simply telling it.


So don’t just say it, show it.  If I say my dad loses the remote control, and will search everywhere and anywhere for it, you may have a picture in your head of my dad looking for the remote. 


However, if I use my dad’s voice and use my body to show you his search for the remote perhaps by pretending to look in a drawer or under the bed, or in my pockets, then the audience doesn’t have to word as hard to picture the story. 


That is what makes storytelling effective.  Make your story as simple as possible for the audience to follow.


Lastly, be in control of the tempo.  When you are public speaking, you are likely to feel nervous and want to be done as quickly as possible.  Relax and slow down.


Slowing down will go against everything your body is telling you, but you must appear calm, and in control for the audience to feel comfortable with you. 


All storytellers are salesmen.  We are trying to sell this story to the audience.  You wouldn’t by anything from a salesman that is sweating and talking a mile a minute.             

So b e in control, and by slowing down and enunciating, the audience will assume you are confident and this will allow them to relax and just follow your story.