How To Be A Raconteur

First published in the June 2010 issue of Buzz Magazine

Michael Harvey, who will be appearing at this year’s Beyond The Border, is a veteran in the art of spinning a good yarn. He explains how you too can be the envy of any dinner party.

STEP 1: Get inspired

Go to a festival like Beyond The Border, and keep an eye out for other events. There’s a really nice one at Milgi in Cardiff on the third Tuesday of every month. It’s really friendly and includes floor spots from professional and upcoming storytellers.

STEP 2: Develop existing skills

The social world gives you all the storytelling skills you need and if you work with the skills you have you get an original, unique performance. Looking for stories to tell can be a lonely business so it can help to buddy up with someone like minded, starting with collections of folk tales and mythology.

STEP 3: Find a good location

Start at a level that isn’t going to freak you out, amongst friends. Telling stories outdoors is beautiful, and you need a place with character. Informal seating is good too, because if people cuddle up or sit wherever they want then they are much more relaxed and open.

STEP 4: Pretend adults are children

Kids taught me everything I know, but adults can be harder because their faces are more closed and their resting expression can look a bit grumpy. But, if I convince myself that inside there’s an eight-year-old child, and I start telling a story to that child, then their faces soften, and they become more open and responsive.

STEP 5: Work through stage fright

Everyone gets nervous; it’s just that when you get experienced, you just call it excitement. If you feel you’re using the audience, slow down, calm down and rest in the story. Think about the physical sensations – what the story looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like; a story can be as real as a memory.

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