A Baker's Dozen Tips to Get Deeper Into Stories

Until the Story of the hunt is told by the Lion,
the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter
– African Proverb

  1. Pretend for a while. Place yourself in the story. Let the story conjure images. Create a mind-movie. As you unpack the story, engage all your senses. What do you see? What do you hear?   What are the tones of conversations? What are the feelings displayed? 
  2. Place other characters into the story and imagine their perspectives. (child, mother, wealthy or poor person, water carrier, merchant, street person, neighbour, friends, . . .)
  3. What happened before? Describe in your mind the actions that led up to the story.
  4. Read between the lines. What is left out of the story? What happened behind the scenes?
  5. Think of the family dynamics. (E.g.: ~ David-Goliath story~ Why did David rush home at end of the day? The house was quiet and subdued but smelled of fresh baking? Why? Had the brothers returned from war and preparations were underway for a party??  Imagine conversations with mother, father, servants, . . .
           ~Sister-Moses story~ Describe the family dynamics. Think of the wonder of three-month-old babies, gurgling, laughing, and responding. How did their sister play with her baby brother? Imagine family discussions leading up to the basketboat in the river idea.
  6. Imagine the feelings of various players? (fear, wonder, determination, anxiety, anger, joy, amusement, playfulness, …) Get into the role. Stand in front of a mirror and display those emotions. Talk to yourself about them.
  7. Think of sequels to the story. Return to the story five years later / ten years later. What do you find? What changed? (behaviors, attitudes, relationships, etc.) e.g., Jonah and big fish, Jack and Bean Stalk, ... 
  8.  Different people in the story meet each other. Imagine their conversations.
  9. Work with partners. One is A, the other B. Role-play various scenarios. Reverse roles. Talk after about what your partner said/did. 
  10. You’re a reporter. Interview any character who may have witnessed the story to find out what happened. Act out conversation either with yourself or with partners. E.g.: ~ David's story~ Officer in King’s tent as David is dressed in Saul’s armour. Why did they all break into fits of laughter?. . 
     ~Sister-Moses story~ The servant who found the baby among the reeds. How did she find the little basketboat? How did she feel when she saw this adorable baby? How would she describe the young Hebrew girl who stepped forward? Why was the girl at the river’s edge? 
  11.  Do background research as necessary. (e.g., historical, geographic, social realities of the time and place).
  12. Let the story itself dictate the approach and energy
  13. Rehearse recovery. Don't backtrack. Decide if the detail is critical to the story. If not, just drop it. If it is critical, insert it in a different way.
    E.g., I was telling a story: "When Leopard leaped at Zomo, he tumbled head over paw, head over paw, womp! - right into the rock."
    Oh Oh - I realized I had forgotten to let the listeners know that Zomo had dribbled thick rich cream and slippery fish scales on Leopard's hunting path. That information was an important bit since it accounted for Leopard tumbling down the path. So I inserted, "Leopard did not know, Leopard did not know, that Zomo had dribbled . . . ." (From a telling off,  Zomo the Rabbit: A Trickster Tale From West Africa by Gerald McDermott. Harcourt, Brace, 1992).