I work at Southern Cross University in the Storytelling Unit in the School of Education. Recently one of our international students asked me a question about pace and pausing in storytelling. He has kindly ageed for me to share our converstaion as others may find it helpful. Feel free to add comments!
Hi Jenni, Thank you for your constructive feedback on my assignment. The course has enhanced my skills and knowledge to be a good storyteller. I will put into practice my knowledge and skills in storytelling. I wanted to ask you about using “pause” appropriately when telling a story. What would be your advice when it comes to using pause in a story? Is it because we are nervous that we don’t use pauses appropriately? Could you outline some strategies for me to use in my teaching please? I anticipate your kind response. Kind regards, Mapi, PNG
Dear Mapi, We all have a our different rhythms of speech as individuals and then different cultures have distinct rhythms – fast or slow, dramatic or relaxed. Most people speed up when they are nervous (including me!), but the opposite happened for you it seems and you also paused a lot.
There are no hard and fast rules- it is all about sensing what works. Imagine you are reeling in a fish. If you reel it in too
slowly or too quickly, you’ll lose the fish. Sometimes you pause to make sure the fish has the bait…then you keep reeling and reeling.
Keep your ‘story fish’ on the hook by keeping the thread or momentum of your story going. The pace can definitely change and vary, in fact this is best, but you can’t pause for too long.
It is also like playing skip rope when others turn the rope. You have to ‘get’ the rhythm of the rope to be able to move in and out smoothly. Similarly you need to develop the rhythm of your story, so that it feels right for you and your listeners. Be sensitive, tune into your audience and tell from the heart. Above all, give it time and practice and be gentle to yourself! Rome wasn’t built in a day. Enjoy the journey!
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