Throughout Lockdown we have been working with Family Rights Group‘s Parent and Kinship Carer panel members, keen to share their stories and personal experiences of the UK Care system. During one of the sessions the group had the opportunity to hear from three inspiring speakers who shared their insights into storytelling. The speakers were radio producer Milly Chowles, Ghost writer Jo Monroe and author and campaigner Winnie M Li. Here we share key words of wisdom for all of you interested in sharing your stories and who might not be sure how or where to begin.
Start at the beginning…
When you are telling stories informed by your lived experience it is important that you feel in the right headspace to deal with the highs and lows this form of storytelling can bring. It’s important to recognise that you can anonymise your story, with Winnie recommending useful tactics, from concealing your identity, to shifting time periods or locations. For many people this may make sharing your own stories easier.
An engaging way to start a story is by posing a question to the audience. Provide a dilemma, then expose the pitfalls and difficulties in finding a solution to it and detail what led to the dilemma occurring. Milly encourages pinpointing what you would like an audience to know and work to engage them with this key message. Try to appeal to the audience you imagine you will have. Make yourself relatable, for example if you are telling your story to a group of school children, begin with a dilemma from your school days.
Don’t focus on telling a story that’s never been heard before. Instead ask yourself, how can I say what needs to be heard in a way that gets people to listen? There are many forms a piece of storytelling can take, try to explore different options. This could be vlogs, spoken word or writing for books, plays or articles.
Stuck in the mud…
The order you use to plan your story doesn’t need to be the order you tell your story in. If you are stuck on how to start planning your piece of storytelling, begin with the part of the story that excites you the most. Jo gave a key piece of advice on avoiding seeing your storytelling as one massive series and to instead focus on crafting a few short stories where from there you can build up more .
If you are writing your story, using the framework of a list can help structure what you’re trying to say. For example, 16 Things I Wish I Knew About Storytelling. The points on your list can then form short stories within themselves or even chapter titles for a book.
The story is yours, so personalise it as much as possible. Jo encourages you to give descriptions of your surroundings and details about why you are where you are. For instance, if you’re speaking about a bus ride, then start the story at the bus stop. Try to give the full journey. Your story doesn’t need to be perfect on the first go. You can change it as much as you like.
Remember it is your story, what would you like to say?
As you become more familiar with sharing your stories your confidence in their power will grow. If you begin to pitch your story in professional realms, for example to a publisher or a radio producer, chances are you will be asked ‘what makes your story necessary to be told now?’. Milly recognises this may seem like a daunting question, however feels it can help guide you to think of new angles to tell your story from.
If you attempt to gain a book deal or a tv series from your stories, be aware that you will face multiple knockbacks and rejections. Winnie suggests that you try not to be disheartened by this for too long and to take every critique with a pinch of salt.
Your story is yours, so it can’t be for everyone. Gradually you will form a network of people keen to hear what you have to say and many chance opportunities will come from that.
For more from the Speakers:
Watch Winnie’s TedXLondon talk: Reframing the way we think about sexual violence
Listen to Milly’s story on Being the Story Podcast
About the Author:
Maisie Adair has been working with sounddelivery for five weeks after being selected by her university, the London School of Economics, to receive funding to undertake an internship. She studies Social Policy (Bsc) and is from Hackney. In her spare time Maisie enjoys clowning and during lockdown has been volunteering with Chefs in Schools delivering food to children.