How To Become a Professional Storyteller

Published by Partnered Content, Date: October 19, 2020
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How To Become a Professional Storyteller

Storytelling exploded with radio programs and podcasts like The Moth and StoryCorps. If the idea of making money by telling stories appeals to you, look into how to become a professional storyteller.

Listen and Learn

Look for podcasts and consult local public radio station schedules for storytelling programming, and listen—a lot. Note the unique angle of the narratives. Many are hilarious, while others are both heartrending and heroic. As you listen, think about what would set your stories apart.

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

“Practice, practice, practice,” says the old joke. Telling a story on stage—with lights in your eyes and a live audience in front of you—is worlds apart from regaling your buddies in the dorm lounge. If you think you’ve got a good story to tell, practice telling it to a blank wall. Memorizing isn’t necessary if you keep in mind the major “beats” of the story.

Take a Class

If you don’t have any experience speaking to an audience, consider taking a storytelling class. Check out training offered by professional storytelling organizations to get a sense of what it takes. You’ll learn the importance of respecting copyright and getting permission if you want to recount someone else’s story. A class can help you learn about your voice, where to insert pauses, and how to respond to audience reactions.

Keep It Short

Most open mic storytelling events set a time limit of no more than ten minutes, sometimes less, for you to get through your story. Set a timer while you’re practicing. If you consistently come in long, step back and think about what parts of your narrative you can cut.

Start for Free

Contact venues that would attract your target audience. If you want to be a children’s storyteller, connect with schools or community centers to find out if they’d like to host a storyteller. Storytelling for children has many benefits beyond entertainment. Parents tell stories to infants to help babies develop language and begin to perceive the meaning of facial expressions and vocal ton. Think about the educational benefit your stories could offer.

If your stories are for more mature audiences, start with open mic nights, and gauge the audience’s reaction to your tale. This experience will help you refine your stories and figure out what works for an audience, as opposed to what loses them.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

When you’ve got enough telling experience to begin charging for your services, ask around about the going rate in your area. Other storytellers can help you figure out what might be reasonable for a beginner to charge. As you gain success, you can move into podcasting or your own YouTube channel.

Becoming a professional storyteller requires practice and persistence. Some tellers build a career out of dramatic retellings of classic tales and myths, while others stick to their own experiences. Storytelling is an exhilarating way to participate in a tradition of oral history that goes back to the bards of old.

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