How do you handle an invisible egg? In our new “How to be a Storyteller” book, most of the contributors mention gestures and body movement within their chapters. Let’s take a quick look at what the effective storyteller needs to think about when handling imaginary objects that may be a part of a story.
Remember that every item you handle, from the basket of goodies in a Red Riding Hood story to the sharp sword in any swashbuckling adventure, has four qualities: size, weight, location and texture. Let’s look at those.
Every item you handle in your story has a size. If you imagine picking up a pencil in the middle of your business story, you need to think about how large the pencil is. Is it your everyday-sized pencil or is it the size of a child’s learning-to- write oversized pencil? Are you telling a story of pirates and handling a sword? Is it a large curved blade or a small dagger? Remember to act and move the items you handle with respect to their size.
The small dagger and the large sword mentioned above do not weigh the same. A tennis ball and a bowling ball are also different weights. You cannot just blithely toss about a heavy object in real life just as you cannot do so in your storytelling.
Every item you pretend to hold or show in your story had to come from somewhere and it has to be put down somewhere. Pick the blue rose from the trellis and be sure you either hand it to the daughter in your story or you put it gently (it weighs only a few ounces) on the table. Do not let your pretend items float about.
The imaginary coffee cup that you are holding in your story has a texture. Is it a ceramic mug or a Styrofoam cup? Is the golden ball in your story made of solid glass or soft cloth like a bean bag? Do not let solid items become squishy. Watch how your hand interacts with the item you are holding.
An effective storyteller pays attention to the details in their storytelling. Think carefully about how you handle your gestures in all your storytelling.
Here are a few more resources to help you:
I wrote a bit more about gestures and basic story techniques over at this article at Storyteller.net. Pop over and take a look.
You can see my short video on gestures below or over at Youtube at: http://youtu.be/mXFcPY0umxI