Five Tips To Fabulous Story Telling!

posted by Toka Box Editorial Team , March 20, 2019

It is World Storytelling Day! Chitra Soundar, the well-known author of the Farmer Falgu series, gives us five tips for fabulous storytelling.

All of us are storytellers. Trust me on this one. You’re a storyteller too. Whether it is about the weather or how you missed the bus or how you splashed in a puddle – everyone wants to tell a story. And the story must be told because civilizations survive on stories. Many believe that early storytellers told stories to warn their young from the predators and dangers of living in the wild. And that’s how we today exist as humankind.

Why early cavemen and women told stories

Whether they told it with pictures, rudimentary drawings of stick people on the wall of the caves or whether they made up sounds, gestured with their hands and with their eyebrows, they told stories.

Then how come some people tell brilliant tales of adventure, suspense and thrill and some bore you to death? How come some storytellers can bring the story alive and some can invoke the curse of the yawn?

Well, my friend, like in everything – there are tricks to learn, skills to hone and learning to do.

GROAN! Learn?! You scream!

This is going to be fun and funny learning. Think squealing like a pig while rolling your eyes and your nose at the same time and shouting “I MUST TELL YOU A STORY!” Of course, it is funny. Trust me, I can be funny – especially on Tuesdays when the eggs have dripped all over my face and the tomatoes are being planted into my ear-lobes and I suffer for my storytelling.

What? Today is not Tuesday? Then I must be funny today too – whatever today is. One wise person once said (not twice, not three times) – Today can be whatever you make it to be. And by the way, tomorrow never comes.

I must warn you, storylubbers, you’re in for a rollicking ride of fibs, lies and telling tales. So buckle your seat-belts. No seat-belts in chairs at home? Isn’t that dangerous? It is dangerous in my house – I’m always falling off chairs, stools and even the carpet. Must be a funny trait.

Firstly let me begin at the end. That’s the way we do it here.

You’re telling a story on the stage. You’re in your element. You’re making noises. You’re doing voices. You are screaming, whispering, rising, falling, sitting, standing up.

The audience is watching with mouths open. With ears open too. They are smiling when you’re smiling. They are laughing at your jokes. They are sighing during the sad part and they are chuckling during the naughty parts.

This is storytelling bliss. You finish with a flourish. Everyone claps their hands. They stand up and keep clapping. They are walking away silent, your words still ringing in their ears.

Is this what you want? Then we must go to the beginning right away.

Pick a story you like

Tip #1 – You must pick a story you like. You cannot make your listener groan in pleasure if you don’t enjoy the story. So pick a story that tickles your fancy. Is it funny or is it sad? Is it long or is it short? Whatever it is – do you like it? Hang on. Do you love it? Do you believe in it, however improbable it might be?


Think about your audience

Tip #2 – Think about your audience – would the audience care about your story? A story needs two people – the teller and the listener. Are you telling them a story they’d care about? Or about someone who they can care about? The thing is – it is not easy to know this. Sometimes you’ve to trust your own instincts. I have told children’s stories to adults and they had enormous fun. But most often, stories that only adults want to hear might not be something kids would love.


Don't lose yourself in the story

Tip #3 – When telling the story, don’t get lost in the story. That’s the job for the audience. You have to be aware of things around you. You have to be conscious of where you are in the story. Make eye contact with the audience. Smile at the right things. Include them in the story. Don’t go off on solitary trips into the story world leaving your audience behind.

Remember the pact 

Tip #4 – Remember the pact – teller and listener? That listener can be anyone while you’re practicing your story. Tell the story to a wall, your dog or your cat or your goldfish. You can tell the story to a gullible neighbor, your mum or your dad. Dads are good listeners as long as you don’t keep asking them questions about the story.

Tell the story many times before you have to tell them to a real audience. Practice will not make perfect. Because there is no such thing as perfect. It is your story – you can tell it any way you want. You will know how to use the words and which words to use, the more often you tell.

As you repeat it many times, you would know the contours of your story better. You will know which parts are funny and which fall flat. Believe me, the flat-fallers are totally party-poopers. Flat-falling story parts can make the audience look around, pick their noses, watch the disappearing tail of a lizard on the ceiling, stare at the grey hairs on the person sitting in front of them and the worst disaster of all – YAWN!

The ace up your sleeve

Tip #5 – Keep one last card up your sleeve. If you have done a wonderful job of telling stories, your listeners would clamor for more. This is not like paying for a movie and watching the movie and getting up and leaving. Here is a live performer telling the story to you – individual listener. That draws them in.

Then they will ask for more. One more… they would plead. For that moment, keep a small story, a funny one, one that they would take back with them to chew on as they hail a cab or board a bus.

A real audience is one that comes to listen to your story, would give you the time and space. They would put aside a TV programme, a book or even an important social engagement at their mother-in-law's house or set aside some precious playtime and come to listen to a story. You own the time for that duration. So you have to respect it. Prepare for it. And keep the special effects to a minimum. This is a low-tech art. If I can make sounds with my vocal cords and you can listen with the vibrations in the air through your eardrums, that’s all the technology you will need to enthrall, delight, torment and reward your listeners with.

Be warned, storylubbers. Anything can go wrong in this imaginary world filled with dragons, deep woods, mysterious monsters, gangly giants and murderous villains.

But you’re the storyteller – Only You Can Save The Day.

Chitra Soundar has been a listener all her life and she has been telling stories since she was 7. She also writes them down to be published as books. Most of her books are set in India and tell stories of journeys, disasters, hope, and adventure. You can find out more about her at

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