I became involved doing VBS story-telling, started thinking about our methods and did some further study on storytelling as an art. I discovered that when our style of storytelling was at its best, it was because we had maintained some of the basic principles of storytelling, and when we flopped, often we had failed to follow one of these principles. Knowing and applying these basics will strengthen your lessons and Bible stories.
I often try something dramatic or mysterious to gain attention.
Some cautions are needed here:
* The introduction must not overpower or obscure the story.
* Once you have gotten their attention (any storyteller with experience knows when he or she has that), then don't linger with the introduction - proceed into the substance of the story.
* The best story tellers keep their props, plots and costumes simple and provoke their children's imaginations to the maximum. In fact, the masters of the art need no props at all. They can create everything with their words.
* We as adults tend to underestimate children's ability to accept imagination or fantasy as such, and sometimes make too much effort trying to justify our "scenario" or explain its details. Actually the children delight in trying to figure out the implausible aspects of the story afterwards. That's fine - you have their attention and they are thinking about what you are saying.
* Sometimes, once the story has actually started the costumes and gimmicks become irrelevant and "invisible".
Some attention keepers...Many factors affect the attention of your listeners. A storyteller needs to be sensitive to his audience and may need to regain their attention before continuing.
* The running "joke" or pratfall. This finds the children paying careful attention waiting for the expected laugh.
* The "throw away sentence" or digression. Like the "rural storyteller", you "digress" with an offhand remark that perks interest.
* The gimmick. Costumes or object lessons can include a number of these.
* Involvement or participation. Use volunteer(s) from the audience in your story. Or have the audience participate in hand motions or making sound effects.
* A distinct change in your pace, voice, or mood.
* An unusual or unexpected twist in the narration. Use different voices describing dialog between different characters.
* "Never state a fact if you can bring that fact to life!...Make them real. Make them come to life!... Plunge into your story with glee, and don't leave out the fun." Barrett, p.87
* Apply it personally with a up-to-date, where-you-are-at twist.
* Keep it simple and direct!
* Once you have made it-stop! Don't ramble on. If you are using a costume character, exit quickly without the drama and flourish with which you came. Leave their thoughts lingering over the point that has been made.
* Don't feel you have to explain everything and tie together all loose ends. Let them go away thinking about what has been said.
Humility, love and prayer are important elements of storytelling along with creativity and innovation. Children get more than the story from you - they need to catch your personal excitement about the message. They need to see you have been touched by it as well. Prepare your heart as you prepare your story.
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