I once had a speaking mentor that said “Nick, I want you to write down 1 story from your life every day.” I said “Great! But what do I do when I’m out at the end of the week?” Turns out, I have never run out. I have stories in varying stages of creation just waiting to be used. Don’t get me wrong, telling the same story over can have huge value. But if you need or want a different story, where do you get it from? Below you will find 5 ways to find stories in a number of different genres of oral storytelling. There are many more that exist. I thought these would be interesting to share.
- Look at your childhood
- Storytelling coach and fellow storyteller Carol Moore (https://www.carolnmoore.com/) recommends starting with the many memories and happenings of your childhood experiences as a starting point. For personal narrative stories, this allows the storyteller to take a look at a fixed point in time to start a journey that can be tied to the present.
- What I love about this advice is that allows a storyteller to figure out a beginning and end of a story. It then becomes time to fill in the middle of the journey
- Homework for life
- Author of the book Storyworthy, Mathew Dicks outlines a process that he calls “Homework for life”. It is a daily writing assignment that is sort enough to not take too much time, but long enough to capture great ideas for stories starting at a simple place. Check out the TEDx Talk here: https://youtu.be/x7p329Z8MD0
- Go to the Library
- What if you want to tell a story, that isn’t a personal narrative story? After all, there are many, many genres of storytelling. I happen to be talking to Heather Forest (https://www.heatherforest.com/) and Sheila Arnold (http://www.mssheila.org/) this weekend at the Women’s Storytelling Festival, and both recommended going to the library. Specifically, section 398.2. This is the section that houses folktales and fairytales from around the world. Browse through the titles of stories and books, find one that piques your interest, and begin your journey into a new story. When looking through the stories, start with ones that are made for kids. These will be the easiest to remember.
- The 3 P’s
- In speaking with Sheila Arnold, she also recommended a bit of advice she got from renowned storyteller Donald Davis (https://www.ddavisstoryteller.com/): Start with the 3 P’s. People, places, and problems. On a sheet of paper or word doc, write those 3 headings. Then proceed to list as many of each that you have encountered. List all of the people you have met as far back as you can remember. List all of the places you have been to as far back as you can remember. List all of the problems you have encountered that you can remember. In each one of those cases, they will be the inspiration of a memory. And memories are inspirations for stories.
- Doing interviews
- Another bit of advice that Heather Forest mentioned is to look into your ancestral roots as far back as you can. I think this works for a number of different storytelling genres. You may find personal stories, but also folktales or rich cultural stories worth talking about. Heather’s advice also reminded me of a class I took about historical oral interviews. A good source of stories is interviewing people you know. This can be family, people in the community, or others that are important or interesting to you. Not only are these stories interesting, but they may also take you to unexpected, unexplored areas of your life.
If you are looking for new stories to tell, I encourage you to give these a try. They are just a few fun ways to make sure you tell your story on purpose.