STORYTELLING 101 - TELLING A TALE
Under the best of circumstances you, Future-Teller-Of-Tales, would have searched out this story for yourself. You would have read it by scouring the 398.2 section of the library - that's where folktales from many countries can be found. OR, better yet, you would have heard a storyteller tell the story. OR, you would have seen a video of the story. WHATEVER! The story would have struck that chord in you and it would have begged to be told. HOWEVER, since we are under certain time constraints, I will now have you trespass against Rule #1 and have you tell a story because..."I" tell you to!
The stories I am presenting to you were collected by Pleasant de Spain in his two volumes of "Pleasant Journeys." The great thing about folktales in general is that they have been passed down through the ages. The mere fact that they have survived hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years (before books!) is testimony to the fact that these stories speak to us - in ways that we sometimes do not fully understand. But, there must be something in these stories to make people want to repeat them; to carry them across continents and oceans…and generations; to write them in books.
Pleasant has taken these stories and written them quite simply. He has avoided a lot of clever word crafting and details. His dialog is minimal. But the essence of the story is still in tact. That makes them perfect for the exercise that follows.
Your task is three-fold, Future-Teller-Of-Tales!
First, take the story and write it in ten or so sentences; then turn your paper over and try to write it in five or so sentences. Be sure you leave in essential action. Occasionally a moral or repetitious phrase may be essential, but keep little detail or dialog.
Part Deux - now, exchange you paper with a partner. Rewrite the story that has been given to you. Tell it in you own words by giving the story a time and place, by naming the characters and giving them dialog, by adding details. If you find that you don't have enough information with the five sentences, you may look at the other side for the longer version. Still stuck? All right, go back to the story, but do try to keep writing in your own words.
Part Trois - This is the most difficult part. especially if you haven't done a lot of public speaking. But persevere! It will be worth it when you go back to the classroom and are able to tell stories. Here goes! Read your version five or six times. Then, visualize the scenes. See all the details even if you don't use them in the actual telling. Tell the story to yourself without the copy of the story. Ready? Tell it to your partner to "get the bugs out." Listen to your partner’s story. Give each other helpful hints.
If time allows, get together with others ( 8 to 10 in a group) and tell the story to that group. I realize that some of you will be ready to try this while other will not. That's okay. We are all on a different time schedule. Just tell "about" the story, if telling it is just too intimidating at this time.
Did you notice a change in the way you felt when telling the story to yourself? to one another? to a group? You can study, visualize, repeat all you want. But, it's only when you get up before a group that you will really learn how to tell the story. And telling to your class is one of the safest arenas for trying out these stories. They will love you and your stories no matter what!
Since I coerced you into telling a particular story, you may not have felt a "kinship" to it. You may never want to tell this story again. But, at least, you now have the tools that you need to easily learn a story. After awhile, you won't have to write out the "bare bones". You will do that automatically.
When you leave here today, I recommend that you start with "easy" stories. Folktales are easy because you rewrite them in your own voice. Some of the old fairy tales aka- Goldilocks, Red Riding Hood, etc., are easy because you already know them. Some children's books are easy to tell, but others are not. Try to select stories that are what I call linear. They go in a straight line and one thing just flows into the next. There are some stories to avoid at least for awhile.
1. Long involved stories - Arthurian tales, Beowolf, etc.
2. Memorized stories that rely on an author's unique language - Kipling, Sandburg, etc. These are literary tales and there is another whole set of rules concerning them.
3. Rhymed stories - Seuss, Bill Peet, etc.
Good luck, Future-Teller-Of-Tales!! May you wear your stories well and may the wind carry your stories to far reaches of the earth.