Thursday, May 2, 2013

B is for... beginnings

Yesterday I embarked on a month of alphabetical, storytelling blogging. You can read A here.

Today we'll talk about beginnings.

The start of your story is the doorway. It gives you a chance to set audience expectations, which you then can support or subvert as you see fit. But the beginning of your story isn't when you open your mouth, it's in the moments before, when you connect with your listeners and let them know by body language and attitude that they can trust you, they can relax and come along for the ride.

When you walk out on that stage (or lean forward in your living room, or start your PowerPoint presentation or...) you need do so with confidence that your story is worth telling. This is the real beginning of your narrative. Your audience will pay attention to how you're holding yourself, how you look at them and, once you begin, how relaxed you sound.

Assuming you are reasonably relaxed or confident or at least faking it well, they then can dive into the images and narrative you give them.

From there, the beginning of your story establishes setting, character, genre and other vital narrative components. This isn't an essay on narrative structure, but your beginning gives your listeners a clue as to what they're in for.

"Once upon a time..."

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

"Thank you for inviting me to speak with you about my work..."

"When I was little girl..."

"A dog, a cat and an elephant walk into a bar..."

"Everyone expects their child to be born perfect. Sometimes we need to change what perfect means..."

Each of these beginnings sets an expectation. You must quickly give your listeners enough information so they at least think they know where the story is going. This lets them relax and build their own relationship with the narrative, so crucial in any storytelling experience. You then can stick with expected direction or not, it's up to you.

But those first few moments of the story, the beginning? They are the vital time when you build relationship with the audience, start off in a direction they can relate to, and remind yourself that yes, you really do know what you're doing.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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