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The (Traditional?) Art of Storytelling - Lisa B Marshall

The (Traditional?) Art of Storytelling

I thought it would be fun to compare a traditional storyteller a Seanachai (pronounced “shan-a-hee”), an Irish storyteller to a modern day American storyteller Jeff Smith-Luedke, who is an author of two books and runs a popular channel azrinoch on Youtube.  

Watch them both, then we can discuss a bit.  When you watch the clips, try to listen for descriptive details.

Here’s Jeff Smith-Luedke (azrinoch)…

The best thing we can learn from both of these storytellers is their use of very specific adjectives and specific verbs to help us create unique memorable mind images.

  • “he put the pony in a makeshift shed that was at the gable of the house”
  • “there it twas a beautiful wheel of bread with a cross on it like you see the spokes on a wheel”
  • “his teeth were swimming inside of his mouth for a bite of it”
  • “bounded to the bathroom with glee” (he just didn’t go to the bathroom)
  • “the avatar of my body, the very skin of my face had been mercilessly slaughtered” (he had pimples)
  • “vying for a last-minute, well-scripted Hollywood miracle” (looking for skin care product)

I’m sure you heard even more descriptive language that stuck out.  Tons more we can learn. Listen for the unique analogies, listen for the repetition, listen for vocal variety, and listen for the use of pauses.  Thanks to master story tellers for lessons we can incorporate into our own stories.  Use this for the stories you tell at parties, in presentations, in interviews, or even at the dinner table.

There is 1 comment .

Chris Witt


Thanks for giving us such great examples of storytellers. I love each one, although they couldn’t be more unalike.

We were talking earlier about how effective speakers appeal to people’s visual, auditory, and kinesthetic preferences. That’s exactly what storytellers do. With words and voice and gestures, without a single slide, they plant images and experiences in their audience’s imaginations. And often the image / experience people create for themselves is more powerful and lasting than anything else.


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