E is for Ears and Eyes
The Ears – Listening for love‘The first duty of love is to listen.’ Paul Tillich
The ears are crucial to storytelling. Storytellers need attentive listeners; and listeners need storytellers attentive to sound. Many storytellers begin their sessions with call and response. ‘Cric’ shouts the storyteller, ‘Crac’ replies the audience, as just one example of connecting through sound, focusing the attention and attuning ears to the story that’s about to begin.
. . . . When learning a new story, I also encourage tellers to pay attention to the sounds within a story. What sounds characterise the environment? What sounds do the characters make? Will you imitate the sound of a creaking door, the sigh of a breeze, the screech of an owl or witch? Let your ears guide you.
The Eyes – windows to the soul
. . . . Before beginning a story, take time to make this soulful connection through the eyes, not with a superficial sweep of the audience or by mechanically eye-balling every member, but by gently and sincerely opening your gaze to the audience, smiling and meeting the eyes. Spread your eye contact about the room as you tell your story. Be aware of people off to the sides, at the back of the room and even behind you if necessary.
Of course, there will be times when you choose to look down—to convey despair, for example—as long as you do so with intention. And there will be moments when closing your eyes can convey a dramatic moment of introspection and heighten a silent moment.
The ears and eyes are a storyteller’s essential organs of perception and connection with the audience, with the space, with the language of the story, and the story characters. Be attentive to sound and sight, and your ears and eyes will help you bring heart and soul to your storytelling.
Extract from forthcoming ebook, The ABCs of Storytelling: Tips, Techniques and Reflections of a StoryCoach by Michael Williams, Ph.D.