About storytelling

by Helen McKay and Berice Dudley

‘Each of us has been designed for one of two immortal functions, as either a storyteller or as a cross-legged listener to tales of wonder, love and daring. When we cease to tell or listen, then we no longer exist as a people. Dead men tell no tales.’ A Recipe for Dreaming by Bryce Courtenay.

THIS BOOK IS FOR storytellers, teachers and speakers, or anyone who has a message to offer or a tale to tell. It is suitable for beginners, or more experienced tellers anyone who wishes to enhance their storytelling skills and improve their style.

We wrote this book because many people from diverse backgrounds asked at our workshop presentations for an up-to-date book about storytelling, relevant to Australian audiences and conditions. Unable to satisfy their request with the name of a recently published Australian book, we decided to write what we have learned and experienced about storytelling.

Currently there seems to be an upsurge of interest in storytelling, both in Australia and internationally. We have noticed there is a demand by our audiences for a connection with `real people’ instead of the canned or impersonal images filtered through machines such asÿvideos, television and films, with their violence, explicit sex and lack of moral values.

Because of the changes brought about by the electronic media, especially television, video and, more recently, CD ROM programs, people are now becoming accustomed to superficial five-minute grabs of information. As a consequence of this we find the attention span of many people in our audiences has been reduced. In the book we attempt to show storytellers some ways to regain and hold their audience’s attention.

We show how storytelling is both an art form and a craft: an oral form of painting pictures with words, that is, pictures in the minds of the listeners. Both the teller and the audience can interact with each other to share and co-create a vision – a vision of the story unfolding as it is told.

We also show how story, one of the oldest forms of the healing arts, has the power to repair damaged feelings, give insights, restore lives and build bridges to reunite our communities. The power of a storyteller, or the magic of a story should never be under-estimated.

We have included a comprehensive bibliography for those who wish to find out more about storytelling. Many of the books listed have helped us and will help you to develop and polish your skills.

Storytelling is a living art and therefore needs to be nurtured carefully as you would a plant. Feed it by finding out as much as you can about the skills you can use and the stories you tell. That way you will experience as much satisfaction as your audiences.