Professional Storyteller

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Smell that Lemon - Using Senses in Storytelling

Imagine its a warm day and you are holding a ripe lemon.  Its been broken off a small branch of the lemon tree and along with a few lemon tree leaves there is also a little gathering of lemon flowers.  Put your nose up to the lemon, breathe in deeply and smell the sweet-sour scent of the fruit.  Now breathe in the heady aroma of the lemon blossom perfume.  

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When we remember our past, the powerful moments we want to share in a story, we often don’t remember the things we experienced through our senses, or we forget to talk about them in the course of our story.  Often they aren’t directly relevant to the story.

We forget the smell of a place or that there was a smell, we forget the sounds outside the thoughts in our head, we forget the weather, the touch of a breeze or the feel of a hand, we forget that the food we ate while not material to our story, has a role in bringing our listeners into the physical realm.

But writers know this very well and the same principle applies when we tell our stories; to bring in details that are observable through our senses draws our listeners in to the story.  

And that is because senses are a bodily experience.  And our bodies are always in the present moment, even when it is our imagination that is creating the connection.  

Storytelling needs to create a picture in the minds of the listener and the more vivid and detailed the picture the more easily our listeners can ‘see’ in their own minds eye the scene we are describing.  

Like a cartoonist who creates a whole scene with a few stokes of the pen, we can, with just a few words, bring a scene to life in the imagination.  And by doing this the rest of our story is more memorable.  

Next week I will go through a five step process for bringing the senses into your stories.

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