Professional Storyteller

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Five Step Process for Bringing Senses into Your Storytelling

Following on from last weeks post, here is a five step process for including senses in your oral stories.

Step one (and I know this is a big one):  Be story ready.  Have your story worked out.  Practice it a few times.  

Step two:  In each significant scene or part of your story, go through each of the senses and find some, maybe several, short things to say about each one.    Here is a brief list of a few possibilities for each sense:


Sight: colours, shapes, material, light, aliveness, movement.
Scent: sweet, sour, pungent, fresh, stale, pleasant, clean, dirty, air.
Touch: skin, hands, temperature, smooth, soft, rough, hard, clothes.
Taste: Eat, drink, swallow, lick, salivate, gag; any sensation in the mouth.
Sound:  dialogue, yelling, singing, ringing, melodious, birds, engines.

So for example, for a scene in the bathroom:
Sight: The bathroom was foggy and wet, the mirror like opaque glass.  Sound:  The tap dripped as steadily as a heart beat.
Touch:  With the hot water pounding over my body, I fell deep into thought, so common in the shower.
Taste: It was just when I tasted the soapy flavour of shampoo that I realised…
Smell:  A smell of fresh, sunny clean came from her warm, damp hair.

Step Three:  Assess how long your story is and how much time you have to devote to adding some extra lines about senses.  Even if you are at the limit of how long your story needs to be, spare 10 seconds to bring in at least one sense at either the beginning, the climax or the end, or all three. 

Use whichever feels the strongest and appeals to you the most.  (And remember like a cartoonist, you only need a few words to evoke a sense.)

Step Four:  It is at this point that then you can play with the words, relax into the story and allow more images and metaphors, phrases and descriptors to jump into your story and out of your mouth. 

It is good to be recording your stories at this stage so that you can catch any gems that come, and repeat them.  These wording are usually better then the earlier ones because they come in the oral process.

Step Five:  Practice, practice, practice.   Because it is an add-in and something you are working to include in your story, it is likely to be something that you leave out when under the pressure of a formal telling or performance. 

Slow yourself down, enjoy the image you have created and the power and beauty of drawing your audience ever deeper into the world of your story.                   

So that’s it, a five part process that if you apply regularly in that clumsy way we have when we are learning, pretty soon will come easily and as a regular part of your story preparation.  Next week a demonstration of using senses (and yes that means a story).

Image by João Loureiro under Creative Commons Licence via Flickr.

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