by Helen McKay

Having spent time finding a selection of stories, suitable for your audiences, examine each story carefully. Don’t be afraid to cast some aside as unsuitable for you to use. Look at each story and apply the following criteria:

  • Is it a story you like — one which speaks to you and won’t let you go?
  • Does it arouse your feelings and do you feel a passion to retell it?
  • Is it suitable for your style of telling?
  • Are the messages strong and positive?
  • Will the story offend?
  • Most importantly – Is it entertaining?

Find the skeleton

Identify the story’s skeleton and strip the words away. Now retell the story in your own words, crafting it carefully, to give it an aesthetically pleasing shape. Work from the structure, rather than struggling to be word perfect. Add flesh to your skeleton to round it out and make it comedic.

Each telling is different, depending on how the audience reacts to the story and how you respond to the audience. You will never tell a story the same way twice, so learn the structure and then `flesh it out’.

  • Leave out the boring bits. They slow down the story’s impetus.
  • Emphasise the bits you like – they are often the most important parts.
  • Make sure your story is able to carry the message you want to communicate – don’t allow negativity to creep in.
  • Before telling the story, visualise it. Picture the story clearly in your mind, to help you better communicate it to your audience. Draw it on paper in a stick figure storyboard if necessary. Unless you can see the action clearly in your mind, you will have difficulty communicating it in words to an audience.
  • Practice telling the story out aloud.
  • Tape it and play it back, so you can hear where to correct or prune out anything that affects the rhythm.
  • Listen to how it sounds, using the images you visualise in your head.
  • Add further material to clarify and reinforce those images
  • Re-tape the corrected version of the story.
  • Learn it by heart and practice until you know it well.
  • Try it out on family or friends if you can
  • Always have a versatile range of stories in your repertoire.


By Helen F. McKay ©


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