in How to become a better storyteller

Storytelling magic

By Limor Shiponi

“Ready to tell again?” I asked G. He was ready. Before telling I wanted him to look at all the work he’s done, all those pieces mentioned in the previous post. “This work can also lead to fragmentation, placing too much attention on every detail. So what I’m asking you to do is tell in full phrases. Listen to what comes out of your mouth, and check if it resonates with what your ears would like to hear as a listener”. G did what I asked for, although at the beginning it wasn’t easy for him. He had to work in parallel – both as teller and listener – sending feedback to himself and immediately implementing it as telling. Nevertheless, the telling was good. He still had some minor mistakes but it was there.

You know, this reminds me of physical exercises. At the beginning, when your body doesn’t know the language you use force. As you improve and internalize the movements and the connections between them, you stop ordering muscles and shift to levering. The same happens in sketching – you practice and practice and try to do your best until you reach the point the hand ‘knows’. What you intend just comes out.

This is a lovely acknowledgement. The same applies to any field where fine technique is sought to the level it serves your will. Ask any musician, dancer, painter – storytelling should be no exception.

G tried again. He was searching for something, restarting phrases when he didn’t like the ‘sound’ of them. “What sound are you looking for there?” I asked. “The right sound I guess,” he answered in a hurry just to try again. “I need to close my eyes,” G said while restarting, “can I tell that way? will it be ok?” “with pleasure,” I answered. He gently clutched onto a table nearby to make sure he was not going to fall, closed his eyes and started the lament from the top. He told and listened, told and listened, gently proceeding. His voice changed to a slightly higher pitch, still searching, slowing down. After several sentences of full attention I heard his true voice and immediately after he giggled in a very innocent way. He continued, trying to get to that place again. Every time he managed to touch it, he giggled. To be more precise – his body giggled involuntarily.

G opened his eyes, “that’s a strange feeling. Do you know what I mean?”

“Yes. What’s strange about it?”

“It was embarrassing. I could see the situation fully, while observing myself as the teller both from the inside and from the outside. That’s strange, isn’t it?”

“You mentioned ‘embarrassing’, why?”

“Well, it was a light feeling. It was easier to tell once I got into that place. Suddenly I realized I didn’t care what I look like and that you can see me in this situation.”

“I can see you all the time. Why the embarrassment?”

“Because I got close… I was intimate with myself.”

“How are you? I mean, how was it to meet yourself?”

“It was a nice feeling,” said G smiling with gentle wonder.

“That’s where storytellers are when we are not afraid,” I told G. “We can’t always be there. Sometimes we are too tired, upset, unconfident, not well prepared, hungry, angry, judgmental, our emotions are not in place. But if we do the work, we can be there most of the time. It’s where we can serve best – the audience, the story, ourselves, the event.”

G listened, enthused by the possibility of being the G he’s just met. Then he closed his eyes once more, concentrated, took a deep breath while opening his eyes again and told me the fragment from Gorky’s story – the one I asked him to practice in parallel to David’s lament. He concluded with a huge smile, knowing, sensing deep, the telling was gorgeous. He felt victorious in a truthful way and he had the right reasons.

There was storytelling in it’s full magic and G was the young magician who performed it.

Next: Working with feedback


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