SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

getting that story right

Choosing a story is no easy job. There are thousands to choose from and thousands of ways to interpret it too.I like to choose my stories keeping the the climax in view. But it is tough. The story has to strike that chord, otherwise as a storyteller I cannot be convincing enough. I like my stories to have an element of fun, suspense or adventure and mostly what appeals to me is fantasy!

Having grown up on a solid foundation of Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews and Hardy boys, its no surprise that what appeals to me are stories with all these elements. Children of course enjoy the unpredictable, a twist, a googly, a suspense. I have not yet found a good suspense story that can be narrated....

Every story that I have done till now has a plot, which I feel is essential to spark that creativity in children. It should have a beginning, which is an introduction of the main characters, followed by a mission or the plot, culminating in its success or defeat, the end.

Not all story tellers follow this narrative style, some are happy doing short stories, with simple story lines. Some use the given story text, verbatim. The difficulty in my way is that I dont find a lot of stories appealing, especially if the story line is small.

Yet the creativity of a story teller could also be in expanding the story, combining two stories, making up new themes, keeping the bare essentials of the original storyline, and conjuring up a totally different conclusion. Literally writing a new story based on an existing one. This of course can be developed over a period of time, yet for me the appeal and challenge is to find the right story!

Summer is the time for children to explore other interests and I think its wonderful the opportunities children ( and adults like me, who work part time!) have nowadays. So this summer I did 4 days of story telling with the children of N.

3 days of story telling followed by an activity, where I taught them to make simple paper puppets ( I had to put in a lot effort on this, rather than on the actual story!). On the fourth day I used the puppets we had made and created my own story, based on the original, a heart warming tale of a cows' adherence to truth and sacrifice. I happened to narrate this to my BIL and got ...silence. Then an insight into the value that this story was upholding. A value, of appeal to our grandparents, but by his opinion, with no relevance to our present.

Will we ask our children to enter into a potentially suicidal situation?

He asked me to rethink how I could have narrated the story in a different way, with the animals coming up with a better plan, rather than upholding sacrifice, as is in the original story.

I generally believe every story of mine conveys a very positive message, but in this particular story, I had only looked at how to fit in the puppets(we had made), and overlooked the value communicated.

It is an important insight, for selecting a story.

The idea, even when we use mythological stories, must convey contemporary, practical, and relevant values( that is if we wish to convey any at all... as I said earlier, all stories need not uphold some value!).

What do you look for in a story?

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Passion, conjures up images...steamy ones definitely! You can say it in different ways and every time you express the word, the meaning, intention,depth can be altered. Why spend so much time talking about this word?...Its a train of thought triggered off by my friends comment...
A person is lucky ( or so it is said) to get into a vocation that one can be passionate about. I guess I can make the choice to be passionate about the job I do, or I can take a job that I am passionate about. But how many of us have to relegate our passion into the hobby zone and do a job that is rooted in the realistic world( I assume our passions are in the creative, more dreamy zone!)
I happened to meet Mr.V of Story trails, who has converted his passion for travel and stories into a lucrative business. He spent 15 minutes talking about the concept behind his passion, and I envy his ability to convert ideas into reality! What a niche market,he has sought, and takers are aplenty. And why not, where entertainment is a remote controlled box, any alternative is worth it.
What is exciting is exploring culture and history from the story tellers point of view. Its not about dates or architecture, its the nuances of everyday life showcased to the audience who may otherwise not notice it.
I want to capture this magic for a different audience in a different city...but not being a native can I pull it off?
Need to do some exploring...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

fun factor

Any one can tell a story, what makes it special is how the story teller intergrates the audience into her story. As long as I am in front of my audience, I make eye contact with each and every one of them ( I try to atleast). Ask them questions and use them as my sound board. Children love it.They enjoy the freedom the story teller gives them, to express what the feel, at the same time the thrill that whatever they say will be used within the story is a great energiser. I can feel the audience going through the range of emotions that I express in the course of a story.

Of course that makes me come to the point that the story is the most important part of the experience, however animated or expressive the story teller may be, the story has to appeal to your age group. One thing about children is that they cannot be easily fooled. If the story teller does not have a good script, then the reaction of the audience will be quite contrary.

Thinking on these lines I have to tell you my experience with this play school, TK. I approached them for my first session and they quite happy to use me ( I guess as a novice I didnt want to charge them more, so that was a crucial factor, in their agreeing to have the session). The first story was my "signature story", which I followed up with an activity . Great show, good feedback. The staff was very happy, lot of heavy meaning in the story, and they were happy that I had given some " value" based session, ( for a group of children ranging from toddlers to kindergartners).

Then came the next session. Eager beaver that I was, I jumped at their invitation. That was my first mistake,(I should have tried to appear busy). This was a fun story, lot of animal sounds that I knew would appeal to such young children....Yet my feedback was shocking!

'Last time was better', they said, 'not upto the mark', they felt.

I came back home pensive. I knew by the way the children react whether the children like the story or not, and this time the children were more involved than the last time. Was I wrong in my choice of story.

Not at all.

It was in the expectations of the adults in the environment.

I tell the story, keeping the children in mind, but adults some times fail to see that all learning need not have some " value", some "moral".

Stories need not always have a moral standing or be an educative experience.

I could have extracted some 'value' from the story that I did, I need to? What do you say?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

inspire a story

Story telling is part theatre, part history, part education... a visual media. It differs from other forms of theatre, in the way we present it. The interaction between the audience and the teller is an integral part and important part of the process. The script changes with every performance, depending on the inputs that the audience gives us. So the same story can have many variations.
My first story was 'Rupa the Elephant.' We had to prepare a story as a part of our certificate course at Kathalaya.
I wanted it to be 'Rupa', as I have told this story to my children a million times and know that it will be a sure shot hit. For me every story is a process...i think out the story, even if I have the book or story at hand I need to write(read that as -type, as we are in the computer age!) it out and then have my own script, and then prepare the props, add the sound effects and conclusions,etc... As I type out my story I visualise how to present the same to the children and literally can feel the kind of props I would require.
I love to explore the different mediums in story telling, Chithrakathas, Stick puppets, Hand puppets, story boards.
The easiest to make are stick puppets, hand puppets require a lot of practice. My forte is in using a lot of voice modulations and facial expressions along with my puppets.
Coming back to Rupa, I made a story box. That is a box with the primary characters cut out and displayed (as and when they come into the picture), like a mini theatre, with stationary characters.
The children loved it and till date it remains my signature story! Now I have added a song to it, which really catches their attention.
Its amazing how a simple story told in such a manner can inspire children, my own are living proof of that.
Have you inspired your children, or family members with a story? Tell me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

my first Puppet Show

I had great fun making my first puppet show,drew out the characters,colouring sticking,what a throw back to childhood times. All that latent creativity in me pouring out! I made Stick puppets,and the story was from mythology-Mahishasuramardhini, and it was towards Navrathri, so an apt theme. I had a friend helping and we put together the show. A screen , sutradhar puppets to start off the story, a script too. Well with the internet at our beck and call, there is no dirth for information, enter, type, scroll and click, you have all that one can want!!
So thats how I made my script( there the secret is out), based on Abu's Navrathri. I wanted to include all the elements, a small model of the "Golu padi", even a tiny Kalasam!! Abu and Amma chatting away, about why we celebrate golu, and the differences between North Indian and South Indian customs.This was followed by the stick puppet show...simply great.
We took it around Bangalore city, Crossword book store, Easy lib, and even Shishugraha school. But by the time we took it to the school Navrathri was long gone and we were close to Diwali, so some additions and deletions were made. Yet I feel the original version was more comprehensive, but my friend and partner felt it was too tedious for children to follow...we differ in our opinion!
I generally feel we South Indians are more open to ideas and opinions, or I could put it this way we are more tolerant of others views.... what do you say?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

once upon a time...

one of the first things we do in storytelling is recollect and recount our own childhood stories, a web of memories captured on paper, not with words but through pictures. it could be a simple drawing, but that which triggers off memories of that incident. i made my chart with a lot of enthusiasm but now it lies forgotten on some old shelf, to be discovered by moths and lizards.
It was fun going down memory lane and trying to capture yourself on paper, i think my children enjoyed it as much as i did! Try it, its a lot of fun.
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