Storytelling Tip: Keep Your Stories Delicious

Every morning, my partner Todd makes coffee and then we watch one episode of House Hunters International while we wake up. The show and the people are terrible, but we both love seeing what a two bedroom apartment looks like in Mumbai, or Madrid, or Russia. (Did you know that in Germany a lot of the rentals come without a KITCHEN?)

The show always begins with a couple explaining what they “need” in a house (usually 5,600 square feet for two humans) to the real estate agent.

But they do it with diluted words.

Imagine that you have a glass half-full of water. Now pour beautifully red cranberry juice into it. What happens? Exactly. The juice turns an insipid pink. You’ve diluted the juice. It’s lost all its beauty and richness.

And yes, the requests from the House Hunters people are insane, but if you’re going to make insane requests, at least do it DEFINITELY.

“I kind of need a sort of… I don’t know, a house that, uh, has maybe an Olympic-sized swimming pool? In the house? In… a room?”

Compare that pink juice to this:

“I need an Olympic-sized swimming pool in the living room. IT MUST BE HEATED. And have a trained lifeguard.”

So I started looking at my own everyday speech, and I realized that I was unconsciously doing it too. “Hey, Todd, can you kind of help me get some, you know, tasks done today? Or whatever?”

And the last thing anyone wants is to sound like a House Hunters International couple. I started cutting out the diluting words:

kind of
I’m not sure
sort of
I think
I don’t know

And immediately two things happened: first, I sounded more confident to other people. Then, I sounded more confident TO MYSELF. And as a consequence I started having more faith in my own words.

Give it a try this week. Keep that cranberry juice as red as rubies.

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May 2019 Storytelling Intensive

Short of free time? Try Sage Tyrtle’s Storytelling Intensive. We’ll meet May 25 and 26, and you’ll have a week to practice your story before the (optional) Student Showcase on May 31.


May 25, 11 AM – 3 PM
May 26, 11 AM – 3 PM
May 31, 7 PM – 9 PM

The Centering Space
59 Cambridge Avenue (5 minute walk from Broadview Station)
Toronto, ON


We’ve all had that moment where you’re telling a story, and you suddenly realize that everyone around you is just waiting for you to stop talking.

The almost imperceptible glazing over of their eyes. The slight shifting as they wonder if it’s really that rude to check their phones. The blush crawling up your cheeks as you stumble over your words, trying to wrap things up as quickly as possible.

There’s no worse feeling than realizing that people have tuned you out, especially when you’re trying to talk about something you really care about … and nothing better than when you look around a room and realize that people are hanging on your every word.

That’s what this workshop is all about: learning how to tell stories that matter in a way that absolutely captivates your audience.

Over the course of this intensive, you’ll learn the art of storytelling by doing as we come together to workshop one true high stakes story from your life, taking it from idea to polished performance, and laughing ourselves silly along the way.

You’ll learn:

— How to choose a story that really matters, and why it’s so much more important to tell these stories than to fall back on anecdotes.

— The fundamentals of storytelling, from structure and tone to cadence and connecting with the room.

— What actually happens when you put a zombie in a room full of skittish humans, and how that can teach you about confidence.

— What it’s like to have a whole room of warm, supportive people cheering you on as you learn how to become a compelling storyteller at work, with friends, and on stage.

— How incredible it feels to hold an enraptured audience in the palm of your hand as you tell the final version of your story to a small group of friends and family during our last class.

“Even though I’m a Storytelling Coach myself, I know I can always improve. Sage Tyrtle is MY Storytelling Teacher – and a person I will learn from at every opportunity I get. This course was transformative for me – and even better, it was SO FUN. Every week, I walked out of that classroom a few inches taller than I walked in. You’ll learn a ton of skills you can use for the rest of your life – and have an absolute ball doing it!” Marsha Shandur, Yes Yes Marsha and True Stories Toronto

This workshop’s for you if:

— You’re ready to learn by doing. From the zombie game right through to Kill the Kittens, we’re going to be up and moving. (And not actually killing kittens. Promise.)

— You’d just love to be able to stand up and speak confidently, whether that’s on stage, screen, in the boardroom, or just among friends.

— You might not know what story you want to tell, but you’re excited to work with the group to find out.

— You’re kind of shy, and while you love the idea of being an amazing storyteller, the reality seems really far away. (Guess what? That gap is way smaller than you think.)

— You’re ready to dive in head first and love the fact that you’ll get a little extra work to do at home.

Give it a miss if:

— You can’t stand the thought of having fun while learning to tell stories.

— You’re under 18.

— You’re looking for something more along the lines of story therapy. While that can be very powerful, it’s not what this particular workshop is about.

— Participating in physical, high-energy, fun group exercises isn’t a good fit for you. (Let me be clear: you can absolutely do this class if your body works a little differently than most people’s. This class is accessible to all. What’s not OK is if you want to come to the class and just watch everybody else do the exercises. If you’re here, you gotta be all the way here.)

— You’re only comfortable with learning to tell anecdotes, not high stakes stories. (Anecdotes are the lighter, more surface level stuff. You know, the “I got drunk and got lost” story you tell to friends at a party. High stakes stories are more along the lines of those you tell to someone special to you, in an intimate coffee shop.)

“The class was so fun! There was never a dull moment. Sage is so good at answering our questions and connecting what we’re doing in class to the development of our stories. My stories would often ramble and I never thought too much about it (even when I was heckled while giving a wedding speech) but now I see – REALLY see – the power of editing my stories.” – Omar Khan, workshop participant

May 25, 11 AM – 3 PM
May 26, 11 AM – 3 PM
May 31, 7 PM – 9 PM

The Centering Space
59 Cambridge Avenue
Toronto, ON

5 minute walk from Broadview Station

Public parking behind Broadview Station. Convenient to Don Valley Parkway.



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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Make a Home Recording Studio In A Closet

I often record my voice for my One Minute Storytelling Tip videos. A few people have asked about my home recording studio, and I thought you might be interested too. It’s easy and relatively inexpensive to set up your own home recording studio. My small closet contains:

* hanging clothes to act as a sound baffle

* Zoom H4N Pro ($300) and 2 AA batteries

* Behringer C-1 Condenser Microphone ($57)

* Standard Microphone Cable, 15 feet ($27)

As shown in the photo below, the cable connects the microphone and the Zoom H4N Pro. I record in WAV format on to an SD card, which I then use to transfer the audio to my desktop computer. This way, I never have to worry about computer fan noise. The Zoom H4N Pro is silent.

The reason this works is simple: the Zoom H4N Pro provides phantom power to the microphone, as shown in the photo below. Why does the microphone need phantom power? It’s a condenser mic. (Put very simply: dynamic mics are great for heavy metal bands. Condenser mics are great for warm vocals.) Condenser mics need a power source.

What’s the sound quality like? I used this set-up to record for NPR’s Snap Judgment. Click here to listen – scroll down to “You Look Lonely”.