Story Stakes and Chains of Connection

A few days ago I spent an hour or so coaching a 13 year old boy who told a story for the NIDA Nights event last Thursday.  We had already had a session by Skype on Sunday and it was great to meet him and a pleasure to coach him.  

On Sunday we looked at the overall structure of his story and when I met him we worked over and over and over the transition points of the story. 

Transitions are the points that join parts of a story together, they are also markers that lead us into next section. The more set they are, the more they roll off the tongue, the more easily we find our way and say what we need to say in the most efficient and effective way. 

Working with this boy we honed and whittled, sifted and set until we had simple sets of words that would lead where he wanted to go.  So long as he got the first few words right, he would know where he was, the audience would understand the connection, and he would be able to move through to the next part of the story. 

On the way home on the train I was thinking about the crucial significance of transition points and two metaphors came to mind.  

The first was of a chain and post fence, one of those older style barriers used to direct pedestrians and stop cars.   Like the one in the image above. There is a series of posts, and arching down in between each post is a heavy metal chain.  Transitions are those grey iron posts, they are fixed, steady and certain, they hold the chain up and allow it to move through to the next section of chain.  The chain itself is movable, it can sway and swing and double over, it can change shape and be flexible as it moves from one pole to the next, much as stories are different every time they are told, but when the story gets to a post, just as a chain does, it is fixed and held, until it moves through to the next section of chain.

The second metaphor was of being on a trail or bush walk and whenever you get to a cross road or an intersection there is a signpost pointing which way to go.  Those signposts are transition words, and the path of course, is the story. Whenever you get to the end of a section of story, the set words lead you into the next section and tell you which way to go. If they’re not direct, set and simple, you’ll miss the direction and fumble around trying to find the right words to say what you mean. 

I hope this makes some sort of sense, and it comes to mind when you are next rehearsing to tell a story. 
I have five things on offer at the moment:

  • Free 45 minute story coaching or Catalyst calls, on any aspect of story want to work on.  Book here.
  • A free 40 minute lunchtime webinar on Friday 23 Feb at 1.15pm AEST - How to Think Like a Storyteller - register here.
  • Another free 40 minute lunchtime webinar on Friday March 9 at 1.15pm AEST - Storytelling to Build Trust - register here. 
  • Story Wise Women - Storytelling Night - March 6, 7.30pm, Long Play, Nth Fitzroy. Theme for March is Place. More info and bookings here.
  • Storytelling for Women Leaders - two day workshop in Gisborne on 20 - 21 March. Details here.