Published Author, Professional Storyteller & Writer, and Educator
Published Author, Professional Storyteller & Writer, and Educator
Published Author, Professional Storyteller & Writer, and Educator

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Adapting a Story to Tell

You've found a story you'd love to tell, but you think it's too long, or not quite right for the audience you have in mind. Rather than tossing the story aside and forgetting it, adapt it to meet your needs.

There are certain stories that should not be adapted, such as those that are sacred, religious, or spiritual. Research your story well so you know and understand the various versions and variants. You can take notes on them, select the parts you like, and blend them. But always retain the integrity of the original selection.

Think about your audience, and determine the language (word choices) you should use. Also think about the length of the story - if it's too short - lengthen it! If it's too long, shorten it. If there are any areas of concern, such as violence or complexity, remove them. Create your rendition of the story to meet you style so it will be a story you can enjoy telling.

Here are some specific changes you can make in adapting your story for telling:

  • To simplify or shorten the story, delete or avoid secondary plots, eliminate detailed description, simplify the characters, and possible combine characters.
  • To lengthen or embellish the story you can expand the development of the characters, add characters, add events, or add description.
  • You can rearrange the plot but do not alter the intention of the story.
  • Vocabulary can be changed.
  • Alter dialogue or narration t suit yourself.
  • To enhance the telling you may add repetitions.
  • Change the historical time frame of a folktale.
  • Change the point of view or perspective; change the sex, name, place
  • Change the ending, but don't destroy the story.

Once you've made your adaptations, work on your story, telling it many times so you feel comfortable with it. Be aware of your delivery - avoid those extraneous words such as and, uh, well, so, and then, etc. and be aware of saying "he said" and "she said" too many times!

Finally, if you're on a roll, try using an accent or dialect that might be appropriate to the story. Can't do it? Try it! You may be pleasantly surprised!

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