From Dr Eric Miller (PhD in Folklore)

Chennai, August 2016



Workshop on

"Role-playing in Storytelling":





When telling a story about a character other than oneself;

that is, when telling in 3rd person ("He/she/it did this and that...") --


First, to prepare --

Tell the story (tell what the character experienced, including what he/she said and thought) numerous times -- from the point-of-view of

a) the main character in the story.

b) any other character in the story.

c) any object in the story.



Begin telling the story from the point-of-view of a narrator ("He/she/it did this and that...") -- but occasionally shift into acting mode, speaking as characters.





When telling a story about one's own experiences

That is, when telling in 1st person ("I did this and that...") --


In this case, you are the narrator of the story, and you are also a character in the story.


First, to prepare --

Tell what happened from the point-of-view of

a) yourself.

b) any other character in the story.

c) any object in the story.


In these initial tellings, there may have been a lot of reporting / summarising / narrating, and not much acting -- not much speaking of your and other characters actual thoughts and spoken words (not much "direct speech") at various moments in the story.


So tell the story again from the point-of-view of yourself, but this time use as much "direct speech" as possible.  That is: Begin in narrator mode -- but occasionally shift into acting mode, speaking as you and/or other characters spoke at the time.




For example,

At that point I said to the cook, "I am going to take out the trash."  She replied, "But the trash bag is heavy.  Are you sure you can carry it?"


There is a big difference between that (narrating-and-acting), and a pure narration/report/summary such as --

At that point I told the cook I would be taking out the trash, but she said the trash bag might be too heavy for me to handle.


The narrating-and-acting brings the scene to life amongst us.  The narration/report/summary keeps the event distant -- long ago and far away.


A benefit of role-playing in storytelling is that role-playing tends to help the teller -- and thus also the listeners -- vividly imagine, experience, and feel what characters are going through.  This kind of emotional connection can contribute to making storytelling engaging and impactful.




One always has the option of turning a 1st-person story about one's own experiences, into a 3rd-person story about a fictional character's experiences (that fictional character would be replacing oneself).  When doing this, one could follow process 1, as given above.






When telling about personal experiences:  You know what you were thinking at various moments.  You can only imagine what other characters were thinking at various moments.


You might seek to shift into acting mode ("direct speech"), speaking as a character, especially during emotional, dramatic, and turning-point moments in a story.


Two types of "direct speech" are:  A character may speak to him/herself (a soliloquy), or he/she may speak to other characters in the story. 


When a character speaks to other characters, the audience members (especially individuals one makes eye contact with) are put in the position of those other characters.  So what we are talking about here is active "role-playing in storytelling" by the storyteller -- and, in a sense, passive "role-playing in storytelling" by the story-listeners.


Seek to express each character's nature and state-of-mind through unique ways of speaking, and through unique ways of sitting/standing and moving.  Exaggerate.  "Stylise":  For examples, at times:  Add rhythm and melody to a character's voice.  Move rhythmically and repeatedly.  Strike a pose and hold it as one continues talking.


Remember:  A narrator can become a character temporarily and instantly, by taking on and expressing (through voice and/or body) an emotion a character is experiencing.