Storytelling Tips for Beginners

Storytelling Tips & Tricks

Start your storytelling story with our advice for beginners.

How do you know you’re not a natural if you’ve never tried? Have a go at Storytelling, whether you’re good or bad, we believe storytelling is good for your soul.

Here are some tips to get you started

Finding a story

Choose a story that you like and that you enjoy telling. If you don’t enjoy it your audience won’t either. Whatever you choose, don’t read from a book. That isn’t storytelling, it’s story reading and unless you are the author you could be infringing copyright.

  • Tell a folktale, a story handed down from one generation to another.
  • Use a real life story, from history or personal experience.
  • Make up a story.

Preparing to tell

Memorise the outline, not the whole story. Then tell the story in your own words. Practice makes perfect. Try it a few times. Practise in front of a mirror or with friends and family.

Visualise your story. Imagine sounds, tastes, smells and colours. Picture your characters, how they behave, walk and talk.

Performing

Beginnings are especially important. Launch straight into the story and avoid a long preamble. Common beginnings are things like, “Once upon a time,” or ” My grandmother told me, ” or “In a time long ago and far away…”

Endings should be clear to your listeners. They want to know that you have come to the end. You may need to slow down. Common ending are things like, “They lived happily ever after,” or “Ever since then that’s how it’s been.”

Use repetition. Traditional tales often use the rule of three, to build the tension in a story. Think of the Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Vary the tone, pitch and pace of your story. Don’t be afraid to use a little silence.

Be confident. Even if you don’t feel confident, just pretend. It’s surprising how quickly your confidence will grow.

Most of all have fun and enjoy your storytelling.

What makes a good story? We asked three professional storytellers this question.

Dominic Kelly: “I’m attracted to stories for different reasons – some have startling or vivid imagery; others some fantastic ‘reveal’ or a beautiful plot twist; and others have a compelling emotional thread. But there’s also some underlying ‘muscularity’ to a story’s structure that I need to feel before a story really feels like a story… I also want to discover some multi-layeredness – a metaphorical richness to a story. Perhaps most of all, I have to CARE. If I really care about what happens to just one character in the story then I’m in and it’s working.”

Sophie Snell: “I look for a traditional tale that leaps from the page – a story with a good heart to it. I don’t mean a moral or a message, but an emotional core that lends itself to twists and turns you can carry people along with… I look for a good story line, an interesting setting or character, or something quirky or intriguing – that you can get your teeth into and play with. But also something I can tell with commitment, because I know it works for me, and gets a good response from the audience… Then I look for a hook in the tale and things can build up from there. You might play with the structure, perspective and setting; reinvent the story by turning it on its head – what if, why, how would the audience react if … by trying out different ideas until that one works.”

Mara Menzies: “I have told the complex Greek story of Persephone to pre-school children and they loved it! I have told fabulous fairytales to grown ups and they too were thrilled. As long as you adapt your story to suit then you will have them in the palm of your hand. We all love strong characters – brave and daring, beautiful and haughty, angry and rebellious. As long as the narrative is clear and we understand what is happening then we all identify in part with the characters and the goings on.”

More tips

We regularly blog about storytelling and include hints and tips. Follow these links below for some more tricks on starting your storytelling story:

Introduction to storytelling

Why children like stories

Learn about storytellers aspirations and challenges through our survey here. 

githanda flipped

Discover behind the scenes knowledge about our storytellers through their interviews here.

Take a look at some of our favourite Storytelling Quotes here.

Go back to Everything Storytelling page.

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