Step into the Narrator’s Role

The final part to Step into the Story is to Step into the Narrator’s Role. Often the role of a narrator is underestimated. I have heard people say, “O, I get to be the narrator in the drama. I got the easy part, because I just have to read a couple of lines.” But whether you read lines in a drama or tell your memorized lines as you narrate part of your story, doing this well is one of the most important and most difficult parts of being a good storyteller.

It’s important to understand the place of a narrator. Too often a narrator sounds like a person outside the story who comments on the story or tells about the story. It may be that they sound disconnected from the story, as if the story has no effect on them. They lack excitement and therefore the story becomes less exciting to listen to.

Sometimes storytellers make comments such as, “Do you know what happened next?” Or, “I don’t know why, but boy, those brothers were such bad people.” Or, “We are going to learn that God never left Joseph.” These types of comments make you step out of the story and into your teacher-role. This is like pushing the pause button on a DVD player – the movie is paused while you talk about it, like you stepped out of the story to tell the kids something, and then you need to step back into the story somehow, find the play button and get going again. The momentum you’ve been working on in your story disintegrates. When you do this, you create an opportunity for the kids to tune-out and stop listening. Don’t hit pause. Resist the temptation to comment on the story during the story. Save your carefully selected comments for after the telling of the story – when you connect the story to their lives.

Being a good narrator is more than not making any comments. Here is the secret to being a good narrator: A narrators must step into the story. He is part of the story and the story is part of him. He tells it from within the story, and represents all the different characters in the story. The narrator feels what the characters in the story feel, and experiences it as he tells the story. He is affected by each word, and therefore each word and each sentence is said in a specific way to bring the meaning of that sentence across. The narrator uses his voice and his body language to communicate this.

Let’s look at an example. If you say “The brothers were very distressed. They knew this was bad” – show the emotion of these words in how you say them. “The brothers were very distressed. They knew this was bad!” Feel what the characters feel. This goes for distress, anger, joy, excitement and for more complex feelings, like hesitation. In this lesson, Joseph sees his brothers for the first time. He has a choice to make. Is he going to punish them? Kill them? Tell them who he is? Can you imagine the emotions that must have rushed through Joseph as the brothers bowed down before him? All these thoughts are narrated in the lesson. Here’s what that could look like:

Although you are not actually saying any words spoken by Joseph, you do represent Joseph in these lines. You show through how you say it, what goes on in Joseph’s mind. You draw a clear picture of the dilemma that goes on in Joseph’s mind as he watches his brothers bow down before him.

So when you look at the script, ask yourself “Who do I represent in this sentence?” and then say the lines as a representative of that person.

Here’s an example from He Loves Me – Bartimaeus:

Bartimaeus does not say anything in this part of the story. Yet, the narrator identifies with Bartimaeus and represents him. The narrator herself feels the loss blindness brings to Bartimaeus’ life, and shows the listeners how he is affected by it. She also communicates the hope there is through this person named Jesus, and how Bartimaeus longs to meet Jesus and have a chance to be healed. The narrator experiences all these feelings as she delivers this part of the story and expresses the story from within the story so that the listeners will be drawn into it and will relate to Bartimaeus.

Narrating well is important, and more challenging than stepping into the roles of the characters. But let’s improve our skills and take them to the next level!

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