Speaking Techniques On How To Narrate A Story
Get comfortable reading and speaking at the same time. This is really important if you’re telling a story or poem by reading it from the page. You can also memorize, which can help, but you want to make sure you know how to read something out loud.
- Read it more than once. Especially if you’re going to be performing in front of people, you want to read over what you’re narrating multiple times, so that you are accustomed to the words and you can look up at your audience.
- Catch the rhythm of the words. You’ll notice for poems and for stories and even stories that are only verbal, that the length of the sentences and the words used create a sort of rhythm. Get yourself accustomed to this rhythm through practice so you can render the story or poem well, out loud.
- Try to avoid simply reading the story or poem off the page. Narration means that you’re taking an active part in engaging your audience and performing the narrative. Look up while you’re reading so that you meet the eyes of your audience.
Modify your tone, speed, and volume. To tell the story in an engaging manner you will want to vary your voice in terms of speed, volume, tone, cadence. If you speak only in one tone (monotone) you’ll bore your listeners, no matter how interesting the story itself is.
- You want your tone to match the tone of the story. For example, you don’t want to speak confidingly when you’re telling an epic tale (like Beowulf), but you wouldn’t want your voice to get all epic if you were narrating a humorous Shell Silverstein poem, or a light fluffy romance.
- Make sure that you’re narrating slowly. When you read aloud, or tell a story to an audience, you want to speak more slowly than you would if you were simply having a conversation. Speaking slowly allows you to capture your audience and allows them to fully appreciate the story or poem. It’s good to have water with you when you’re narrating and to stop and take a sip so that you can slow down.
- You want to project your voice, but you don’t want to shout. Breathe and speak from your diaphragm. As an exercise to help you figure out how to do this: stand up straight with your hand on your abdomen. Breathe in and breathe out, feeling your stomach rise and fall as you do this. Count to give on a breath and then ten on the next breath. Your abdomen should start to relax. You will want to speak from that relaxed state.
Speak clearly. Plenty of people don’t speak properly or clearly enough when they’re trying to narrate. You want to make sure that your audience can hear and understand what you’re saying. Avoid mumbling, or speaking too quietly.
- Articulate your sounds correctly. Articulation basically means pronouncing sounds properly, rather than pronouncing words. The sounds to focus on pronouncing are: b, d, g, dz (j in jelly), p, t, k, ts, (ch in chilly). Emphasizing these sounds will make your speaking more clear for your audience.
- Pronounce words correctly. Make sure that you know what all the words in your story or poem mean and how to say them properly. If you have trouble remembering the pronunciation write up a little guide for yourself next to the word, so that you can say it right when you’re narrating.
- Avoid “umms” and placeholder words such as “like.” Although fine for regular conversation, these words will make you sound less confident in your narration and will distract your audience.
Stress the proper parts of the story or poem. You want to make sure that your audience understands the most important parts of the poem or story. Because you’re narrating aloud you’ll need to show them these parts with your voice.
- Sinking your voice into quiet tones and leaning forward to engage your audience for important parts of the story can be a great way to intrigue them. Make sure that you’re still projecting even if you’re speaking more quietly and carefully.
- For example: if you were narrating Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the first book) you would want to stress the parts of the story like Harry facing Voldemort or Harry winning the Quidditch match by catching the snitch in his mouth.
- Poems have specific stresses written into their structure. This means paying attention to how the poem is formatted (what the meter is) so that you know what syllables to stress in your narration.
Pause in the appropriate places. You want to avoid barreling through your narration. Reading or telling a story or poem aloud is not a race. Instead, make sure that you pause at appropriate points so that your audience can fully absorb what they’re hearing.
- Make sure you pause after a particularly humorous or emotional part of your narration to allow your audience time to react. Try to avoid skipping over the important parts of the narrative without a pause. For example: if you’re telling a humorous story, you might pause as you build up to the punchline, so people start laughing as they see where the story is heading.
- Many times punctuation is a good place to have a pause. When you’re reading poetry out loud, make sure that you aren’t pausing at the ends of the lines, but instead where the punctuation (comma, periods, etc.) designates a pause.
- A good example of appropriate pauses is Lord of the Rings. When reading the work not out loud, you may notice the overabundance of commas, to the point that it looks like Tolkien didn’t know how to use commas. Now, if you narrate the book out loud, you find that those commas hit the perfect pauses in verbal storytelling.