NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Everyone Has a Story

Everyone Has a Story


          If you think that storytelling is just a bedtime activity for young children, think again. Since the beginning of time, storytelling has fascinated people of all ages and backgrounds. All cultures throughout history have thrived on stories. In fact, history itself is largely a collection of interwoven stories.  One of the world’s oldest art forms, storytelling was going strong long before there were books, much less TV, movies or YouTube.

          A story can be anything from an anecdote about your trip to the grocery store to a grand epic of kings and nations.  We use stories to pass on accumulated wisdom, beliefs, and values.  A story may teach, inspire, or provoke the healing sound of wholesome laughter. Even with today’s flashy high-tech media marvels, the old-fashioned art of spinning a tale has never left us and is at the heart of so much of what entertains and informs us.

          The seeds for a good story are everywhere in everyday life. Chances are if something has happened to you, something similar has happened to others, so they will be able to relate. Who were some of the interesting characters in your family?  What are some of the most important life lessons you have learned?  Have you been in situations that really frightened you?  What were some funny circumstances you have found yourself in?

          Skilled storytellers can transport their audiences out of their day-to-day lives and into a magical realm where anything is possible.  Tellers use a number of different techniques to make their stories a memorable experience. A great storyteller learns his or her skills. They come with practice and repetition, like playing a musical instrument. Here are a few guidelines.

          - Keep the audience’s needs uppermost in your mind. The attention spans of today’s audiences are much shorter than they were when storytelling began. Beginners should therefore keep their stories fairly short until they learn some of the skills that allow them to keep a long tale lively and interesting.

          -  Good storytellers try to stimulate their audience’s senses. You can do this by using different voices when there is dialogue and by working on the pacing of the story by speeding it up in places and slowing it down in others.

          - Gestures are also very important. It’s good to use your whole body, including your eyes and face.

          -  Repetition of certain elements or phrases helps to create a rhythm that the audience will pick up on.         


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