"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

06 April 2015

Day 5 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge: Tips, Techniques and Reflections from a StoryCoach

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 our ears are attuned to the space in which we are telling, we can become sensitive to nuances of mood and atmosphere in the room. We can modify our telling accordingly, ensuring that we remain connected to the audience. And while unexpected sounds can be sources of distraction, an alert, attuned storyteller can often incorporate such sounds into the story. A sudden sneeze, cough, or clap of thunder might be a gift, if received graciously. . . .

. . . . 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 

‘The eyes are the window to your soul.’ William Shakespeare

. . . . 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.

Your gaze is not only your lifeline to the audience, but to higher realms. An old mentor of mine once told me that by looking up, we are looking to the ‘angels’. Up is the place of inspiration. Similarly, a Native-American friend and fellow storyteller told me that up is ‘where the spirits and ancestors are . . . just above your head.’ He went on to explain how the spirits and ancestors love stories, so if you’re stuck, look up to them for help.

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.

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