Q. I have begun trying out your recommended "tell your story out loud to others" technique, and I would like to ask for further guidelines on how to do this - especially as you say that this is the most important tool we have at our disposal.
For example, I am wondering how long should my story-telling session to others be? If it is a feature should it be more like 3 minutes or 20 minutes? (In some situations there will simply not be the time to tell someone a 20 minute story without 'stretching the welcome'.)
First of all, congratulations on trying out the technique. It's hard to do, and you're being brave.
I think you should be able to tell a feature story in, oh, 8-12 minutes. Shorter than that and you are probably describing
your story, not telling it beat by beat. Longer than that and you're probably getting into too much detail.
Try pitching Star Wars
A giant spaceship is chasing this smaller spaceship. And it grabs the small spaceship with its tractor beam and pulls it in. While the soldiers in the small spaceship get ready to be boarded, there's a princess is on the small ship, and she records a message in a little robot that works for her. Meanwhile storm troopers from the big ship are attacking and killing everyone. The little robot has a hysterical friend who's also a robot, who's waving his arms around terrified, but the brave little robot, who talks in beeps, makes him get on an escape pod with him...
You get the picture. Include motivations, dreams, setups, anything that's part of the story:
We cut to the planet surface. There's this kid, Luke, who dreams of being a starship pilot. But he's working on his uncle's farm. He doesn't know what happened to his father, and his uncle won't tell him...
Mostly, though, you'll find that if you're actually telling what happens in the story, instead of describing what the story's like
, your natural storytelling skills will give you the right length. If you feel you're stretching your welcome, just omit details and speed up. If they're eating it up, paint the scene. Above all, have fun! If you're having fun, odds are your audience of one will, too. If you're not having fun, your audience probably won't either.
This whole thing of telling your story to someone or someones first has been a real eye-opener for me. I just told my new drama idea to some friends, who said they loved it. More importantly though, I became aware of some inconsistancies and a few weak storylines. Also, I realized there is at least one too MANY storylines, which was evident by the look of polite confusion on the face of my listeners.
Pre-telling the story is indeed a great idea! Nerve wrecking let me tell you, because you really wear your heart of your sleeve, but worth while and very necessary.
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