A long, long time ago in a distant land……Once upon a time……These are some of the most common introductions that have been used to pass on oral traditions or lessons. This passing on of verbal traditions or lessons is more commonly known as storytelling. Storytelling has been utilized since oral communication started and is still commonly used today. Storytelling can be presented in many different forms of communication methods which include oral, written, and even through the arts.
In this paper, I am going to address the question, “What are the key principles that must be incorporated in storytelling in order for effective communication to take place?”The first step of this process will involve a more definite explanation of storytelling which will then be followed by the principles that are involved in storytelling. Once a basic understanding of storytelling is established, a thorough evaluation of Jesus’ ministry and how storytelling was utilized in the form of parables could be made. This will be followed by a discussion on how current modern day tools can be utilized to create stories and how they might be presented. The conclusion of this paper will help a storyteller reflect on how they can evaluate the effectiveness of their stories.Storytelling is the ancient art of conveying real or fictitious events in words, images, and sounds. According to the National Storytelling Association (NSA), storytelling is the art of using language, vocalization, and/or physical movement and gesture to reveal the elements and images of a story to a specific, live audience.  The NSA breaks the word storytelling into its two root words to formulate a definition.
What is a story? The NSA defines a story as a narrative account of a real or imagined event or events. Within the storytelling community, a story is more generally agreed to be a specific structure of narrative with a specific style and set of characters and which includes a sense of completeness according to the NSA.What is a telling? It is the live, person-to-person oral and physical presentation of a story to an audience. “Telling” involves direct contact between teller and listener.
It mandates the direct presentation of the story by the teller. The teller’s role is to prepare and present the necessary language, vocalization, and physicality to effectively and efficiently communicate the images of a story. The listener’s role is to actively create the vivid, multi-sensory images, actions, characters, and events—the reality—of the story in their mind based on the performance by the teller, and on their past experiences, beliefs, and understandings. The completed story happens in the mind of the listener, unique and personal for each individual.
Storytelling has crossed all cultures to provide entertainment, education, and cultural preservation. Most times the main purpose of storytelling is to provide either knowledge or a direction in one’s value system. The most utilized form of storytelling is traditional.Traditional storytelling is experienced, and forms within the mind of the audience. According to John Walsh, storytelling appeals to a man’s ability to learn via imagery and woman’s need to learn via words. The earliest forms of storytelling were oral, combined with gestures and expressions: words were spoken from one person to another in an effort to communicate a message or a feeling.Storytelling has constantly evolved over human history.
Originally storytelling occurred over campfire chats, and then moved to artwork scratched on the walls of caves. With the invention of writing, stories were recorded, transcribed and shared over wide regions of the world. Today storytelling is accomplished via complex formats and often stored and distributed electronically. The internet, television, and even ham radio have all recently been included in these formats.
Now that there is a basic understanding of what story telling is, it is time to more closely analyze the basic principles that are included with storytelling. Basic Principles of StorytellingEffective storytelling requires talent and excitement. Any story that is developed and presented well can cut across most social barriers and will encompass the interest of its listeners. Most times stories are often remembered over any other format of presentation. According to William R. White of the book Stories for the Journey, any form of presentation that stimulates both hemispheres of the brain have the most lasting effect. To better understand what this looks like, a better understanding of storytelling principles must be evaluated.The first basic principle is how to find a story.
There are many kinds of stories that can be used. According to McWilliams, it is recommended you start with simple folktales, with simple elements. As discussed earlier, stories were traditionally learned by listening. Go visit you local public library, specifically the children’s section. Fairy tales, tall tales, and folk tales should all be widely available. According to McWilliams starting with stories that “touch” you and that are simple is the best way to gain experience.Myths, legends, sagas, and epics can all be found as you venture past the children’s story areas. According to McWilliams, as time and experience is obtained the variety of stories will continue to grow, and you will feel more comfortable with telling your own personal stories.
Sometimes a story can be used to help you find a story.In a story about hitting the bull’s-eye, a rabbi is asked about how he could tell such magnificent stories for each questions asked. The rabbi, of course, answered with a story. He told the story of how a soldier was traveling through the countryside and stumbled upon a wood fence that had hundreds of small chalk circles with bullet holes exactly at the center of them. He found the little boy how had become the excellent marksman. He then asked the little boy how he so accurately hit everyone.
The little boy answered simply, I shoot at the fence and then go draw chalk circles around the holes! According to the rabbi, choosing the story was as simple as collecting and remembering every good story you hear, and then just draw the story around the hole that is present. For most of us, it isn’t that simple and determining what characteristics make a good story is necessary.You need to make sure your own personal stories have the following characteristics, according to Baker and Greene:· A single theme, clearly defined· A well developed plot· Style: vivid word pictures, pleasing sounds and rhythm· Characterization· Faithful to source· Dramatic appeal· Appropriateness to listenersAfter understanding what basic principles need to be present in your story, determining the appropriate audience for your story is the next step. McWilliams notes, the audience has a very important role in storytelling – “for their minds are the canvas on which the teller paints his tale.” Remember, today, attention spans are shorter, and you are going to likely have to make yourself more interesting than the television to make your story understood and appreciated.Some basic ways to help your story be understood include keeping it simple and brief, stimulating the audience’s senses, and describing the characters and settings of the story.
You will have to make sure you can present the people in places in your story to be as real as you know. According to McWilliams, visualizing the story such as describing sounds, tastes, scents and colors can all help to make the audience understand your story.Once you have some of the basic principles perfected, the next step is to map out the story line. The steps of the story should be the beginning, body, climax, and resolution. Make sure to practice the story often – to anyone or anything that is willing to listen. Make sure to practice using your imagination and visualization while practicing.
Make sure you are convinced that the characters and events in the story are real.After you have practiced your story and you feel you are ready for presentation, it is time to tell your story. Storytelling is best done in a relaxed atmosphere free of distractions. The audience ought to be comfortable and close. Make sure all cell phones and crying babies are silenced, or at least ask the audience to turn off their phones or set them to silent mode and for mothers with crying babies to have themselves excused from the group at the beginning.
The use of props and making sure the atmosphere of the room is correct is also important and will be discussed later. Find some attention keepers. A storyteller always needs to be sensitive to his audience and may need to regain their attention. Sometimes a volunteer from the audience can be utilized to re-obtain everyone’s attention. Completely ignoring distractions will be difficult, but according to McWilliams, sometimes you can just ignore it; sometimes it may take a stare, or a pause till the disruptive behavior ends. After going through the steps of the story that were described earlier, it will be time to conclude.
According to Baker and Greene, once you finish the story – stop! Leave their thoughts lingering over it. Don’t feel you have to explain everything, or tie together all loose ends. Let them go away thinking about what has been said, and drawing their own meaning from it!  Evaluating your story and its effectiveness will be discussed in the final portion of this paper.
Now that storytelling has been defined, and its basic principles have been introduced, let’s examine the biblical principle of storytelling and how Jesus utilized many of the similar type of skills to convey his beliefs and to train and equip people to follow His teachings. “All Jesus did that day was tell stories—a long storytelling afternoon. His storytelling fulfilled the prophecy: I will open my mouth and tell stories; I will bring out into the open things hidden since the world’s first day.” (Matthew 13:34-35) Jesus fulfilled prophecy promised by becoming the story teller that was promised in the Old Testament (Psa. 78:1-4).
Stories or parables were often used by Jesus to help us see the “bigger picture” in life. Creating pictures in our mind and opening up our imagination to comprehend a greater dimension of life let Jesus teach in a brand new way.This new form of teaching had one goal and that was to instill values into the listeners.
As maintained by Denning, the following characteristics were present in the parables or stories:A. The parables are told in a minimalist fashion – there is no character development or attempt to set the scene. In this they are similar to springboard stories, and different from stories to share knowledge (which are told in a maximalist fashion).B. The parables are not true stories that purport to have actually happened. They take place in some generic past that might or might not have happened. They are however believable – the train of events is plausible.C.
The parable may have either a positive tone as in the Parable of the Sower or a negative tone as in the Parable of the Talents. The tone is less important in a parable, since the aim is not to spark action, but rather to enhance understanding of the values that are expected. With these characteristics, Jesus was able to present information in a manner that was acceptable and convincing. This method according to Mark Miller is called experiential storytelling.Yes, parables that encapsulated truths, Jesus used. Other than this, He also referred to real life stories. He referred to the bronze snake in the desert, to Jonah and the nights and days he spent inside a fish (Matthew 12:40-41), to Elijah and the widow at Zerephath and Elisha and the cleansing of Namaan in Luke 4:25-27. There were also references to the story of the rich man and Lazarus as narrated in Luke 16:19-31, which was a story of two real people and their fate.
McWilliams notes that the Scriptures have over 40 percent of narrative material that have thrilled most individuals since childhood. Fee and Stuart (in McWilliams) describes God’s story to be “magnificent, grander than the grandest epic, richer in plot and more significant in its characters and descriptions than any humanly composed story ever could be”. There is an art, however, in recounting these stories and so gain the appreciation of the listeners and at the same time, communicating the message to them effectively. Speaking with correct diction, enunciation, pitch, volume, rate, timber, pause, and emphasis are of course, of primary importance. McWilliams also suggests awareness of the basic elements or building blocks in storytelling.
Some of these elements, as indicated by McWilliams are characters, dialogue, scenes, plots, episodes, narratives, and literary devices.Characters. Most of us are interested in people. In people we notice certain things such as their appearance or how the person looks, speaks, and acts. It is not surprising then that when we listen to a narrative, most of us pay close attention to the people – the characters – whose lives unfold before us.
To stay interested in a story, we must find the characters interesting in some way. Stanford (1992) asserts that characters fascinate us by being different, by living in a distant place or a time long past or by being wildly glamorous or consummately evil; characters may also capture our minds and hearts because they are people we can relate to; a character may frequently intrigue us, too, by displaying a special quality or style such as a unique sense of humor, a gift for the absurd, or a profoundly wise way of looking at the world.Dialogue. According to McWilliams, dialogue has an important role in narrative stories. When characters speak to each other, they reveal certain qualities about themselves and about their relationships with the characters to whom they speak; sometimes, characters may talk to an absent or unspeaking listener such that he or she may address thoughts directly to the audience, or the character may speak thoughts aloud to give the audience a chance to hear the uncensored thoughts of the character – thoughts that have not been shaped by the interaction with another character.
 Accordingly, the point at which dialogue is introduced or when narration is resumed is significant in that it speeds up the flow of the narrative, avoids repetition, or gives perspective.Scenes. A scene is used to show the action of an event; its purpose is to advance a story, show conflict, introduce and develop character, create suspense, give information, create atmosphere, and develop theme. The series or succession of scenes depicted by the storyteller makes up the story.
 McWilliams relates, “Stories are as much as pictures as they are words. All these contribute to our experience of the story.” With scenes, the storyteller creates and recreates the meaning and mood of a story. In this manner, the storyteller’s interpretation becomes a performing art because of the way he or she realizes and actualizes the story being uttered. He or she is able to make the scenes real, the characters lifelike, and thereby enabling the listeners to “see” the scenes for themselves and actually feel the emotions in the story.Plots. Stories have plots or storylines.
These describe the sequence of events that take place such as unresolved tension, conflict and resolution, climax, and symmetry and balance.Friedman (1955) notes that the main purpose of the plot is to stimulate emotions through a sequence of cause, means, effects, and ends. This is achieved not by expressing the story in a booming voice alone, but by using the elements of voice and diction in order to convey the meaning and mood of the story accurately. It is not merely repeating words or reciting lines but requires internalizing – thinking and understanding and feeling the author’s meaning and mood, using the proper quality, pitch, intensity, rate, in addition to pausing, phrasing, and using bodily actions to actualize the mood as intended by the writer.In doing this, the audience may also be able to interpret as the storyteller transforms the story into one that is alive, as he or she recreates for the audience the thoughts and feelings of the writer as accurately as he or she can.Literary Devices. A number of other literary devices are often used to capture audience attention and effectively impart desired messages.
For example, repetition is used to offer clues to understanding meanings; resumptive repetition, on the other hand, is employed when after a related incident is narrated, the storyteller returns to a particular point of a story; inclusion uses repetition to mark off the beginning and ending of a section, framing or bracketing of the episode it contains; while chiasm is sometimes used in prose arrangements.The interplay of all these elements in storytelling will help bring one’s message across. With these in mind, we are now ready to take the next step in the process and that is finding and preparing stories.Good oral reading or storytelling and interpretation entail good preparation to properly express a chosen literary piece or story. In Bible storytelling, McWilliams believes that preserved oral traditions are often compacted texts and that everything in the text is all the more important to the story. The use of a particular word, phrase, or description may be very important both for catching subtle meanings and in fleshing out the story.
 In developing and analyzing Bible stories, therefore, it is sometimes imperative to read between the lines while using background knowledge of the text to ably assist in delivering the story effectively. Some basic steps offered by McWilliams in story analysis include:· A careful and alert reading of the text – not just once, but a lot of times, asking many questions along the way. Be sure to ponder on character, circumstances, conflict, crises, climax, and conclusion. This will help in knowing and understanding the meaning or meanings conveyed by each text. Reading the story several times also helps learn its basic plot. Moreover, reading more than one version helps in developing unique telling.
· Visualizing the story as it is being read, calling upon all the senses. Visualizing will also include those which are implied or suggested in context. Consider the attitude, feelings, emotion or temperament of the person who wrote the selection because these give meaning to his or her words and point to the style a storyteller will use in interpretation. Knowing the life of the author and the circumstances that led to the writing of the story provides a clue about the emotional background of the selection and will give the storyteller a hint of what words and ideas he or she needs to emphasize.· Visualizing it from the points-of-view of each of the characters. Look for clues concerning the characters such as their state of mind, feelings, and motivations. Since the Bible is sparse in giving descriptions, it is important to pay attention when it does, paying particular attention also to the significance of names.
· Being on the alert for repetitions of words, phrases, and actions. McWilliams suggests us to be on the alert for changes in pacing, shifts in settings, or in the mode of narration, use of dialogue, and others as these offer clues, too. A storyteller may recall their own experiences to help them understand the mood in the text and to guide them in recreating what is written there.· Diagramming the plot. Break it down into its structure – episodes and scenes.
Take note of the following questions: What was the problem? What was the turning point? Is the conclusion satisfactory?· Consider “Why?” the story. Why was it included in the narrative of the writers? What role does it have in the flow of its larger contexts? Why has God passed it on to us? Emphasize the meaning, the mood by using tone of voice effectively. Finally, McWilliams states that in preparing the story for telling, whether as a story or in a sermon, it is imperative to look for ways to convey in telling, not just the facts, but also the dramatic action and emotional colors as it has come to life for you.Now that we know what steps to take in story analysis, we must next identify characteristics of a good story or what is it that makes a good story.Prose forms appropriate for storytelling or oral interpretation are short stories, novels, plays, essays, speeches, Bible stories, reports, and radio and television scripts. Since it is inconvenient for audiences to listen to a lengthy story, the choice of delivery is necessary.According to the University of Kentucky, a good story has vision, integrity, something to hold on to, and sound values that are not didactic. The following, according to the university, make up a good story:· Has a single, well-defined or clearly defined theme;· Possesses a well-developed plot;· Maintains style – sounds, rhythms, and vivid word imagery;· Exhibits dramatic appeal;· Characterization;· Faithfulness to the source; and is· Appropriate for the audience.
Keeping these characteristics in mind will help develop an appropriate story, along with the use of imagination and some other resources.Developing a story grows out of the writer’s creativity and imagination, and has the additional characteristic of revealing the writer’s own thoughts and feelings. Story writing and telling is an intuitive process. In developing an appropriate story, one must first consider a theme. The theme of the story is an implied or stated insight about life or human nature.
Playing with character interaction, action, and conflict instead of actually just stating the theme, makes the story more exciting and reveals a universal truth in the story. Notably, memorable stories, like the Biblical stories most of us are fond of, usually embody statements about life, that readers or viewers can relate to their own experience.One cannot begin preparing stories until all the necessary information are gathered.
Any typical information-gathering technique such as brainstorming, clustering, consulting one’s journal, questioning, and others can be used, until a thorough understanding of the action, the characters, the setting, and the conflict in the story is achieved. When enough information is gained, we are now ready to write and make it interesting.According to the University of Kentucky, the key to developing an appropriate story is to think about the characters and the kind of voices used. Think about their appearances, and what makes them unique.
When listeners react to the story being told, among the first aspects they notice are actions and events. It is them important to think about words. What key phrases or language must be used that will make the story interesting, entertaining, moving, or significant in some way? Zero in on repeated phrases that allow the participation or for the teller to find their place.The mechanics to delivering a story effectively involves five aspects. The first is to identify the audience and find out specific details about the day or the occasion. Selecting a story that will express, pass on, and instill the message you intend to deliver is the next step.
The story you choose should be delivered in such as way that it will give the audience the pleasure of reacting. For example, a story that is not too old or too familiar to them but one that is relevant to the occasion or related to a theme being discussed; one not too alien in language or situation but suited to the good sense and understanding of the audience in variety in terms of the old and the new.Consequently, as discussed earlier, it is important to understand the story. Be able to identify the general mood of the selected story. It is helpful to get the meaning of unfamiliar words or names and its significance.
Following this, share the story with your listeners and try to make them participate by employing various methods in presenting stories. Make your diction clear and accurate.An effective use of voice that matches the story’s meaning and mood with the proper variety of voice quality, pitch and intensity will make the delivery effective. The key to more effective telling of the story is to emphasize meanings by using the proper rate or tempo; by grouping words, and by pausing. As McWilliams reiterated, make the dialogue an integral part of the story.
The characters must be projected well. Storytellers may use their ability to mimic and use bodily action for expression.Interpretation of stories must not only be vocal but also physical. It is told many times in various speech and oral communication books that our voice cannot do all the work of conveying meaning and mood alone. Rather, the body must also be in harmony with the voice so that the story’s rhythm and bodily action acts as one.
Moreover, all the actions we make must be sincere, spontaneous, fresh, forceful, and convincing. These vocal elements in storytelling make it alive not only through the use of voice but through the use of body and the inclusion of audio-visual elements or props. It is also vital that the actions we choose to use with the story is not overdone but are rather appropriate to the words in the text. This is important so that the intended meaning and mood would not detract from the intended interpretation.McWilliams suggests some methods in presenting stories. He recommends use of narration, participation or getting the audience to become involved as participants. He also advises the use of illustrations or visuals like pictures, models, puppetry, drawings, maps, and the like, to make unfamiliar and complicated elements seem more familiar and simple, uncomplicated and easy to understand.
Other tools that were suggested in making storytelling more interesting and effective also included the use of dramatic skills by becoming different characters or personalities; role playing and influencing an audience in play activities.There are so many wonderful principles and methods that one can apply in order to deliver an effective story. The principles and methods we derived from various literatures on communication, storytelling, and oral presentations can serve as guidelines, in order to evaluate our stories and design them in such as way that will effectively send our message across.Literary works such as fables and biblical parables or stories have a lesson or moral. And it all depends upon the storyteller to weave his or her magic and cause the audience to interact and discover there what they still do not know about the subject. Following the principles of effective storytelling can cause audiences to think differently about a certain subject and even helps reinforce what we already believe, adding new details to support our current beliefs. BIBLIOGRAPHY Bacon, Wallace A.
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