The ‘Voice’ of Storytelling

Storytelling is an art form of old. Everyone loves to hear a good story. But what is it that makes us want to hear it? Is it the storyteller or the story itself?

Both the expressive language of the storyteller and the intrigue of the story itself draw the attention of those who stop to listen.

But how many people will pick up a written story and read it? What keeps people’s attention to the end?

The voice of the storyteller is heard, but not the storywriter, or is it?

Oral storytelling is different than the storywriter’s written narrative. Yet, there are similarities.

  • Every story has a beginning, middle, and end.

It is complete. In other words, it does not leave one wondering what the story was about.

  • There is a particular character or main event upon which the story is based.

This does not mean that a good story is limited to one character. There may be many characters, yet there is one character upon which the story is focused.

  • And there is also a climax, a point at which the story culminates.
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A story usually begins in one of three ways:  1) setting, a description of the place where the action takes place; 2) description of a character in the story; or 3) dialogue between characters.

The oral storyteller and the story writer must pick up the action (begin the story) at the right place. The details of any previous events that are necessary to the story are woven into the telling of present events.

The story then continues with a sequence of actions or events which hold the listener or reader’s attention.

These actions or events are determined by the main character of the story.  Who is this person? What attributes do they possess? What motive compels them to do what they do?

The good storyteller does not give us this information in lengthy detail. Instead, the character does it by what he or she does or says in the story. This sequence of actions drives the story to the climatic end or the culminating event.

A good storyteller uses only as many words as necessary.

An oral storyteller can use voice to emphasize certain actions. However, the story writer must be careful to use specific concrete words.

Those words must be vivid and accurate and must appeal to the imagination.

The reader should be able to see and feel the action without being frustrated with wordy details. Remember, what the character says and does gives explanation without explaining it.

Therefore, the storywriter must be familiar with a vast array of vocabulary words and regional dialects. This is how the ‘voice’ of the storywriter is heard.

Both the storyteller and the storywriter must know when to stop.

What is the ending or final solution? When is the reader satisfied? However, the storywriter may give a few additional details after the climax.

The ‘voice’ of the storyteller whether oral or in written narrative form is an art that takes much practice and should be appreciated by those who enjoy a good story.

That voice is heard through the choice of words and the way the story is presented.

Whether orally through tone of voice, bodily expressions, and dialect, or written through vocabulary usage, presentation of facts, and focus on sequence of events, a good storyteller is one who can “spin a tale” (tell a story) that everyone wants to hear.

Do you have a storyteller in your family?
What stories do you remember from your childhood?
What made you want to hear them over and over?
Do you tell stories from your childhood to your children?
What type of stories do you like best?