There is a lot of different creative elements to consider when you are telling a story. Besides the words you choose, you can add color and excitement through body language and sound. If you haven’t had a chance to read our post on Adventure Story Telling, please take a look! Being able to tell an engaging story is an important skill that has many adult applications.
When you are telling a story and there are no pictures, you can use your voice and other sound effects to create mood and atmosphere, set the tone of the story and engage your audience.
Volume is a highly effective tool for setting the mood. If you’re setting the stage for suspense, sharing a secret with the audience, or playing a scared character, a whisper will be sufficient to convey the mood. On the other hand, if the character is a king with a temper, a loud voice will help demonstrate his character and personality. Varying exactly how loud you are can also differentiate the kings mood; your voice is the best way to let the audience know if he’s merely annoyed or absolutely enraged. It’s also possible to approximate volumes through your tone: hushed tones will sound quieter and deep harsh voices sound louder.
Our tone provides the emotional context for our words. Varying your tone of voice is the easiest way to capture the audiences attention and helps keep them interested – in contrast, a monotone will bore your audience. Lower tones suggest solemnity, higher tones suggest excitement and enthusiasm. Varying your tone is a signal for the audience that you are saying something important.
To practice using different tones of voice, try saying a simple phrase such as “My name is…” using different tones to convey emotions. Have another person guess which emotion you are trying to portray your tone. This is an excellent game to play with small children who are learning about self-expression.
On a side note, tone can also be an effective behavior management tool. My sister and I knew as soon as our mom dropped her voice into “that tone” that our behavior was not acceptable and it was in our best interest to stop right away.
Usually an upward slide of pitch expresses a question or an uncompleted thought, and a downward slide of pitch expresses a completed thought. Pitch is important in adventure storytelling because an upward pitch in your voice indicates you are about to ask them about what happens next. After a few stories your audience will be listening intently for this auditory clue.
You can also use a higher pitch to show excitement and a lower pitch if you want to add a somber mood to your story.
A markedly slow speaking rate indicates solemnity, sorrow, or depression. A marked increase in rate is suggestive of happiness, joy, elation, or anger.
Words or phrases that are spoken more slowly and more emphatically are considered more important and more intellectually significant than rapidly pronounced words.
Varying the speed of your speech is another great way to add interest and set the mood of your story, you can give distinction to your characters by talking at different speeds for each. For example you may have a squirrel who speaks very, very fast, or a wise old grandmother who speaks slowly and deliberately.
Your Secret Weapon – The Pause
The use of pauses is a very useful technique for separating or grouping phrases, for creating dramatic effects, and for emphasizing ideas.
Dramatic effect can be achieved by speakers who pause after a rising inflection, thereby creating suspense – after the suspense, follow up with the outcome to keep your happy and interested.
Use pauses after key points in your story to let the audience catch up and process what you just said.
Use pauses before key points to let the audience know that you’re about say something important – so listen up!
Your imagination is the only limit on the sound effects you can add to a story. One of my favorite stories to share with little kids Goldilocks and the Three Bears Built into the story are so many places where you can make sound effects, from Goldilocks knocking on the door of the three bears’ house, the door creeeeking open, to the different voices of the bears and the thumping up and down the stairs. Of course, using actions such as trying the different porridge’s, falling down when Goldilocks breaks the little bears chair and such just adds to the fun.
Having props such as a kazoo or bells in your pocket, or being able to knock on wood, stomp your feet or have your audience help make the sound effects is always a great way to engage them.
I try to get everyone to help out if there’s horses in the story, because you can make a great approximation of a horse’s hoofs hitting the ground by clapping your hands together and then slapping your left hand against your left leg and then your night hand against your right leg. You can do this slowly for a plodding old nag or faster for a horse at a gallop.
I hope this post will help you incorporate some different voice and sound effect techniques into the stories (adventure and otherwise) that you share with your kids. This is also a great way to teach them from an early age many skills that are necessary for successful public speaking. Have any tips you would like to share?