Storytelling Coaching

The Role of Surprises in Teaching Storytelling

The Role of Surprises in Teaching Storytelling

The skills of storytelling—much like the skills of walking—involve many unaware adaptations that we have learned only after years of speaking to people. We imagine. We use our unconscious abilities to communicate what we imagine—using complex oral language skills such as delicately shading our tone, posture, facial expression and more, to convey nuances of attitude and meaning. 

With so many of the skills of storytelling based on intricate, unconscious learning, explanations of the skills are usually not useful until you’ve already developed them! 

So there’s no obvious way to get students to experience success simply by giving instructions. What activities, then, do we set up? What behaviors do we encourage?

The Role of Surprise…

“Beginning, Middle, End.” Huh?

“Beginning, Middle, End.” Huh?

Many of us take for granted the idea of “Beginning,” “Middle” and “End” with regard to story structure. But what do those words actually mean? Is there a more helpful way to look at plot? How does all this relate to eating a sandwich?

Don’t Fall for the “Lone Genius” Fallacy!

Don’t Fall for the “Lone Genius” Fallacy!

Somehow, we’ve come to expect creative people to work alone. Yet many of the most successful of us seek out, commit to, and cherish relationships with other artists who help us with our work…. the fantasy of self-sufficiency can be a trap. With rare exceptions, creative people of all kinds like to be around others. 

Why, then, would so many people subscribe to the false idea of the “solitary, tormented genius”? 

What Must a Good Storytelling Coach Understand?

What Must a Good Storytelling Coach Understand?

Simon (not his real name) is a masterful storyteller, so it wasn't surprising that others asked him to coach them. Thoughtful presenter that he was, he was aware of much of what he did, such as his thorough research about each group he visited and his careful preparation of his stories.

Simon's Students' Struggle?

His students loved what Simon told them. So they went off eagerly to try things out on their own audiences.

To everyone’s surprise, though, their story presentations didn’t go well.

In response, Simon gave his students more thorough advice on each story: when to speed up or slow down; at what points to toss in a playful aside; exactly when to push harder to build to a climax during each story. He created a long list of do’s and don’ts, of rules and techniques.

Sadly, the more precisely he instructed his students, the worse reviews they seemed to get.

Speech of a Lifetime?

Speech of a Lifetime?

At the recent National Storytelling Conference in Kansas City, I had the amazing honor of being given the Lifetime Achievement Award - the highest honor given in the U.S. storytelling community.

I was allowed just a few minutes to address the gathering. Since this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, I tried to give the essence of what I most want to pass on, after over four decades as a storyteller, author, teacher, and coach. So here’s what I said...

No Hopeless Storytellers?

No Hopeless Storytellers?

In 1979, I was a terrified folk musician trying to learn ear-training. The other students were classically trained. Surely I would be the class dunce.

Then our Hungarian music teacher became frustrated while helping another student - and taught me a lesson about learning, creativity, teaching and storytelling coaching.

Our teacher, Lenci Horvath, turned my ideas about education upside down. But I didn't welcome her perspective at first...

Do You Have a Storytelling Vision?

Do You Have a Storytelling Vision?

Two kinds of listeners every storyteller needs, and how I helped storyteller Karen O'Donnell of Homewood, IL, conceive and realize her vision for

  1. The effect she wanted to have on her community, and
  2. The support she needed to advance her own storytelling.

Do you have such a vision? Is it time for you to create one?