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Tell About: The 1st Step in Learning a Story


When I'm learning a new story, such as this version of "The Horned Women," by Patrick Lawlor, the first step is to make sure I know all the basics.


An easy way to check is to "Tell About" the story: verbally walk through what happens, questions I have, and, (as I discovered while recording this), what particular phrases, images, and feelings stand out to me after my initial read-through.


This is pretty much always in present tense, similar to how we tell anything we're recalling (such as a camping trip).


It's very much not a performance, and usually won't hold a listener's attention. The point is to move the story from words on a page (or what you remember hearing), to a series of images and feelings in your imagination.


When I know a story like I know a place (e.g., the view of my cousins' farm across the road or a favorite hiking trail overlook, or my grandma's kitchen), I can tell the story whether or not I have command of elegant words or theatrical gestures.


This is the foundation or skeleton onto which I can add those fun elements later to better transfer the feelings of the story to listeners.


It was a lot of fun to record this process and notice what I actually do, what I remembered and didn't (later I recalled that the family throws silver shillings into the water in gratitude, and the nyad rises up, wearing them as a silver necklace, for example).


If you'd like to try it out, just read a story once or twice (preferably aloud), find a friendly listener or turn on your camera (though I don't recommend selfie mode since it was distracting to watch myself in the moment), and Tell About what you can remember. I'd love to hear what you think-- I'm betting you'll remember far more than you expect to.

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