Weekend Wordsmith: Storyteller

22 Jun

The art of telling a story to children is complicated.  Telling a story to anyone is complicated but telling a story to children is more so.  Children are at once eager to believe and suspicious.  They want to be swept up in your words but they don’t want to seem foolish either.  There are amazing storytellers.  I am not one of them.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to plan ahead.  My stories start out well but I don’t know where I am going with them and I end up in trouble.  How can the ogre escape the trap laid by the villain?  I don’t know — it’s a darn good trap but I already made the kids fall in love with the ogre.  I rarely want to use a storytelling moment to push children into an understanding of the harsh realities of the “real world.”  Good storytellers plan ahead.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to have a point.  The best stories have a message, a meaning, a theme, a moral.  My moral may change as the story goes along — I start out telling a story about how good children go to bed on time but suddenly it’s a story about a clean room being a good thing and ends up being a story about how doing what your mother tells you to do is always the right choice.  A little ambiguity goes a long way to ruining an otherwise good story.  Good storytellers have a message.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to make it funny.  Kids like funny.  Kids listen to funny.  Kids remember funny.  Funny is hard though and serious is a bit easier — at least for me.  Good storytellers are funny.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to make it familiar.  Children love stories that seem familiar with a twist.  There is comfort in the familiar.  They know what will happen (or do they?) but don’t know how we’ll get there or what will happen along the way.  Good storytellers build on the familiar.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to savor it and enjoy the telling of it.  I forget that my enjoyment in the telling will translate into their enjoyment in the hearing.  Feeling rushed is a reality for parents and teachers but not one we should pass along to our children during story time. Good storytellers enjoy telling stories.

Storytelling is an art and a craft.  I hope to be a good storyteller one day.

More works by Weekend Wordsmiths.
All content written by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2008, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License

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4 Responses to “Weekend Wordsmith: Storyteller”

  1. jayne 22 June, 2008 at 3:25 am #

    It is an art form no doubt. I love to hear a good storyteller weave a tale.

  2. Pam 22 June, 2008 at 3:39 am #

    Good children’s authors are very talented, for sure!

  3. Crafty Green poet 22 June, 2008 at 7:24 am #

    Excellent advice for all would be storytellers!

  4. daisybug 23 June, 2008 at 4:40 am #

    I completely relate! I am terrible at telling stories to children and short stories in general! You really touched on many of the reasons I think

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