Storytelling Tip: Never Memorize A Word

Today’s free storytelling tip: It’s vital to rehearse your story. Rehearse, not memorize. All you need to know are the five major points of your story structure. So if you were telling Little Red Riding Hood, the five major points would be:

* Grandma needs cookies
* Little Red Riding Hood meets Wolf
* Wolf eats Grandma
* Little Red Riding Hood kills Wolf
* everyone lives happily ever after

So you know your five points, you’re ready to rehearse your story. What next?

Break all the mirrors in your house! Okay, maybe you don’t need to be that drastic. But make sure you can’t see any mirrors. Here’s why: we have trained ourselves to look for imperfections while staring into a mirror. So while half our brain is trying to tell that beautiful story, the other half is like, “Is my eyebrow crooked? How come I never noticed that before?”

And while rehearsing, we’re trying to imitate the performance experience as closely as possible. There’s no mirror on stage, so no mirror at home either.

So. Get away from the mirrors. A window is a great choice, because there’s movement out there in the wide world, and you’ll start to learn how to tell a story even if you’re distracted by movement out there in the audience.

Pretend someone has announced your name, then walk confidently out to the (invisible) microphone. Yes, you will feel silly. Yes, it’s still worth it. Tell your story. It will be tempting to talk until you make a small mistake, then start over. Correct your mistake without apologizing, then keep telling your story.

Why? Because we all make mistakes on stage. And we can’t start over there, so we don’t start over at home.

When you’ve finished your story, say thank you, and bow. That lets the audience know you’re finished and it’s time for them to clap.

My students often ask: “But if I’m not supposed to memorize my story, how come when I rehearse it the words tend to come out pretty much the same?”

That’s just your brain finding easy pathways through the story, and it’s going to be easy to replicate AND sound much more natural then a story you’ve memorized word for word.

How can you apply this to your own stories?

1. DO rehearse, do NOT memorize

2. rehearse in front of a window (NEVER a mirror)

3. mimic the performance as closely as possible

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