What I learned from the Story Slam

This past weekend I went to my first story slam. I was laughing the entire night. What great fun.  But I also learned quite a good deal about effective story telling.

While I was listening to the stories, I kept thinking about what Ira Glass says are the three most important elements of story telling.  He says, that story telling should include a series of actions.  This happened, then this happened, and then we did this or and then I thought this. Next stories need to ask questions along the way and answer them.  And finally, good stories, the moment of reflection.  What is the key point?  What does this all mean?

Turns out that really GOOD stories have all three.  At the slam I noticed that the second and third elements were often missing. The story that “won” that evening did include the first two elements and hinted at self reflection, but there wasn’t an overt moment of reflection that gave the story meaning.

Here are some of the other things I noticed or was reinforced based on the stories I heard that night.

  • The opening sentence can be attention gaining, or simply setting the scene.  “It was 2001 and I was traveling in India”.  Twenty-five years ago, I was a single mom, working by day as a banker and a topless dancer at night.”
  • All stories need to include dialog.  Self-dialog that reveals genuine thoughts or emotions (that perhaps you wouldn’t normally share) will make the story stronger.  Sharing thoughts of when you got it wrong is also good.
  • Descriptive detail is very important.  The more descriptive and specific the better.
  • Using facial expressions are very important and need to be exaggerated.
  • Changing the speed of delivery is important.
  • Involving the audience is important.  If they react, acknowledge the reaction.
  • Body movement should demonstrate as much as possible.

I’m going to the Grand Slam at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia on Saturday November 7th. If you are planning to go, please drop me a line so I can say hello in person.

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Copyright Lisa B. Marshall ©2012-2016. All Rights Reserved. Photo of Lisa B. Marshall by Joan Ford Photography.