Storytelling and 5 Ways to Tell Better Stories

Storytelling traces back to the beginning of human history. It has brought people together and kept traditions alive. Particularly before language was written, verbal storytelling was the way elders in a community passed on their knowledge and experiences. I can think of numerous stories that helped shape my childhood perspective and still have an impact on me now! 

Punch and Judy Storytelling Puppet Show, Covent Garden, London, England

The following is one of many cultural stories that not only offers us entertainment, but insight and possibility.

In 1241 a young boy aspired to be just like his father. His family was displaced from their home to Krakow because they had something that many people were after. Meanwhile, the alchemist in their apartment sensed that something was bringing him much closer to transforming lead into gold. The boy’s father was assigned the very important job of sounding the trumpet in the city’s tower each hour. As the boy grew older, he learned to play the tunes. With news of an invasion to find the coveted item and fires spreading rapidly among the closely built homes, it’s up to the alchemist’s daughter to recognize the boy’s call for help…

This version of the story came from a difficult to find book by Eric P. Kelly published in 1928. For more books see here!

My copy of The Trumpeter of Krakow

When the Trumpeter plays every hour the tune trails off sounding unfinished. But he is finished! Sometimes he waves from the window or abruptly shuts the window. As stories have told, the Trumpeter ends the tune unfinished to honor a past trumpeter who during an invasion was captured or struck by an arrow while performing his duty. 

The real trumpeter Krakow, Poland 2019

Even if you are not an avid reader, don’t forget we use stories in social settings all the time. I don’t consider myself to be a very good verbal, social storyteller. To improve, I remember these 5 elements that can make stories more engaging. 

  1. 1. Read your audience. Is it time for a story? Is your story appropriate for this group? Should you wrap it up?
  2. 2. Have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  3. 3. Briefly identify the context (who, where, when). There’s no need to spend too long going back and forth aloud “Was it Tuesday? No it was Wednesday. Oh, but Wednesday it rained so it couldn’t have been.” It’s not that important of a detail, and the other person is losing interest. 
  4. 4. Beware of buildup and drifting. Sometimes too much buildup before you start dilutes your story. Is your digression relevant? Often, listeners don’t understand how a connection has been made to something else and start to forget the point of the story. 
  5. 5. Compelling stories involve eye contact and animation as it applies to your story. 
Conversations in Lagos, Portugal

Storytelling is also a way to creatively express ourselves. Maybe you don’t consider yourself to be creative (it’s in everyone!), but we all have ideas and stories to tell. Challenge yourself to turn the mundane into something magical. You may never experience washing dishes the same way again. If you’re not sure how to express a mood, feeling, or emotion, turn it into a narrative story! Stories bring memories to life.  

Circle of friends around a birthday cake

While visiting a friend in Greece, she told me this story at Acropolis… 

Poseidon and Athena had to demonstrate who would be the fit ruler and name of the city. Poseidon said, “Easy!” and casted water all around the land. “The people need water, and I can provide it.” But when the people went eagerly to sip the water, it was salty. When it was Athena’s turn she grew an olive tree (the one pictured below). Poseidon laughed, “An olive tree? What good is that for the people?” Athena replied, “The olive tree will feed the people and be a symbol of peace.” The city has since been named Athens. 

Athena’s Olive Tree, Athens, Greece

Go reflect on the stories that mean the most to you. Share your stories, share this post!

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