Having a Good Narrative (How To Narrate A Story)
- Set the mood. When you’re narrating something (a story, a poem, a joke) you want to make sure that you set the right mood. This means setting up the story’s place and time, telling it so that the audience feels like they’re there and giving the story immediacy.
- Give a little background to the story. What is the setting of it? What is the timing (did it happen in your life? someone else’s? is this is a story from long ago?)? All these things can help solidify the narrative in your audience’s minds.
- Tell from the proper point-of-view. Is this your story, did it happen to you? Someone you know? Is it a story people are going to be familiar with (like Cinderella, for example)? Make sure you’re telling the story from the right point-of-view.
- If you’re telling a story, especially one that happened to you, rather than narrating from a written story or poem, you want to tell it in present tense. This makes the narrative more immediate for your audience and sucks them into the story more easily.
- Have the right story structure. When you’re narrating a story, especially one you’ve come up with yourself or has been related to you, you want to ensure you have a story structure that will interest your audience. People have been telling and narrating stories for thousands of years, so there are a few parameters that can make your story better.
- Your story should follow a cause/effect structure, no matter what the story is. This means that something happens and then something else is the effect of the cause, the first thing. Think about it with the word because. “Because of the cause, the effect happened.”
- For example: your comedic story is triggered by you spilling water on the floor. That’s the cause, the effect is that you slip on it in the climax of the story. “Because you spilled water on the floor earlier, you slipped on it when you were playing tag.”
- Introduce the conflict early. The conflict and the resolution of the conflict is what keeps your audience interested in the story. Taking too much time introducing it, or veering away from it too often, will reduce your audience’s interest. For example: if you were telling the story of Cinderella, you don’t want to go on and on about her life before the step-family arrives. The step-family are the conflict in the story, so they need to be introduced early.
- Share the right details. Details can make or break a narrative. If you share too many details you’ll overwhelm your audience, or bore them. Too few details and your audience won’t get much of a feel for the narrative.
- Choose details that are relevant to the outcome of the story. To use Cinderella as an example again: you don’t need to give a minute description of every chore she has to do for the step-evils, but descriptions of the chores her step-mom gives her so she can’t go to the ball are important because the hinder the resolution of the story.
- You can also provide some interesting or humorous details sprinkled through the narrative. Don’t overwhelm your audience with these, but a few can get some laughs or provide a deeper interest in the narrative.
- Avoid being too vague with your details. In Cinderella’s case if you don’t tell the audience who is throwing the ball, or where the dress and slippers come from, you’ll simply confuse your listeners.
- Stay consistent within your story. The tale you’re narrating might have dragons and magic that can take a person instantly from one place to another, but as long as it’s consistent your audience can suspend disbelief. Now, however, if you add a spaceship to the mix without previous hint of science-fiction, you’ll throw your audience out of the story.
- You also want to make sure that the characters in your story act consistently as well. If you have a character that begins the story being super timid, they’re probably not going to immediately confront their deadbeat dad without a lot of character development.
- Have the right length. It’s hard to determine what the right length for a story or poem is. That’s something that you’ll have to decide for yourself, but there are definitely some things that you should consider about the length. These can help you decide how long to make it.
- A shorter story is easier to carry off, especially if you’re just beginning with narration. It still takes time to make sure you have all the details right and that you hit the right tone, the right speed, and so on.
- If you are going to tell a long story make sure that it needs to be long and that it isn’t boring. Sometimes you can cut details to make the long story shorter and snappier, therefore making it more interesting.