How will I know I have become a better storyteller?

By Limor Shiponi

At the beginning, G didn’t know what to say. After some pondering, thinking maybe it was about having “really good stories” or a unique style, more invitations to perform, better pay, more programs, a better voice, memory or charisma, I realized the problem was in the question. Not everyone will ‘translate’ a question the way they can answer it with ease. Some people need a question that will help them follow the senses, others need logic – there are several possibilities. If the student is stuck, it’s the trainer’s responsibility to find a better question. This ability comes with experience and at the same time you can use a more structured path, like going through the senses, repeating the question with a diversion: “what will it look like?” “what will it sound like?” etc.

The question that struck a chord with G was “what would it feel like – in your body – when you have become a better storyteller?” He drifted away for a couple of seconds, I could see his body searching for the answer and then he returned with a smile, “It would feel like being a magician”.

So now we know the answer for G.
Your answer might be very different, and whatever it is, it’s ok.

But what does it mean? What does being a magician feel like for G? I asked him to tell me more, to go back to where he found the answer and walk the same path – slowly. “But you can do magic,” said G, “can’t you just teach me what you know?” “Maybe I can,” I replied, “the thing is there are many levels of magic and many uses for it. Say you want to shape-shift and become a lion, I teach you too little magic and you become a rat. Will you feel like a magician?” G laughed. He got the message: he’ll have to answer the question as accurately as possible.

“Being a magician feels like…” G was searching again. His arms moved slowly, upwards and into the space in front of him, his palms tilted as if trying to collect a feeling of resistance that will give him a sense of power. “Being a magician feels like… I can discern every nuance of intention… and make it work for me upon desire and command… so I can better bring up the visions of the story I’m telling to… to… to… see in your eyes… it’s actually happening. My goodness, it’s real. I’m standing on top of the world right now,” he said. After a few seconds I could see the vision disappeared and G was left with the impression and adrenalin.

Now, leaving G aside for a moment, if I’m an experienced storyteller, I intuitively understand what he is looking for. Still, with all my experience, I might be ‘reading’ G’s intentions from where I’m standing, not from where he is. That’s dangerous, because it can result in taking the wrong path. It might turn counter-productive and very frustrating. So the next thing I’ll want to do with G is get some tangible language to help draw a clear map.

Still, this answer he gave me is very important. Try not to skip the intuitive, as vague as it might sound. For someone on a quest, that answer is his northern-star, his inner calling or however you choose to name it. Look up into the sky, look into your heart, look wherever you need to look and find the answer for “how will I know I have become a better storyteller?”

Next: 6 questions I ask every training storyteller