It's easy, in the first flush of falling in love with storytelling and the audience, to forget that we need to apply as much time and practice to our art as any other artist does. Because so much of we do is about connecting with the audience, many novice tellers pretend we don't need to work, craft and practice before we get up on stage. But we do.
The best storytellers I know are diligent about practice. They work on their craft like they're building houses, starting from the foundation up, paying attention to each and every corner and window. It's work. It takes practice.
There are many ways you can practice your craft. I do all of these.
- Write an outline. Remove all the excess and tell only from the sparse notes.
- Find a trusted friend and tell your story to them. Ask them to tell you the things they love the most about the story.
- Tell your story to a tree or the ocean. You might hear things you didn't notice before.
- Hold a small house concert. Invite people who will be happy to hear a practice run. Wine might help.
- Video yourself telling. Then watch, so you can see what body language worked and what didn't.
- Hire a story coach or director. They have experience and an eye that might be quite useful.
- Go to an open mic and tell part of the piece there. Nothing like having a live audience to help you along.
You story may very well change as you practice. Let it. These changes might be great new facets you never before explored. And don't be afraid to let parts fall by the wayside. It doesn't mean they're bad, just that they might belong somewhere else.
Remember that each telling experience is a chance to practice. Because storytelling is such a flexible art, your story will change with each telling, but practice means you know the rhythms of the story. You know the hard places. You know how audiences tend to react and you're prepared when they react in new ways.
And besides, practice is really just a chance to tell your story again. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your storytelling practice. And isn't it grand that we can always learn more about our art and craft!
I'd love to know what practice techniques work for you.
(c)2013 Laura S. Packer