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109 Concord Rd
Acton, MA, 01720

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Storytelling Guidelines

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” Terry Pratchett

stories are told, not read.

We love how the storyteller connects with the audience when there is no PAGE between them! Please know your story “by heart” but not by rote memorization. Notes, papers, or cheat sheets are discouraged on stage. Your story should feel “conversational.”

Have some stakes

Stakes are essential in live storytelling. What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? If you can’t answer this, then think of a different story.

Start in the action

Have a great first line that sets up the stakes or grabs attention.

No: “So I was thinking about climbing this mountain. But then I watched a little TV and made a snack and took a nap and my mom called and vented about her psoriasis then I did a little laundry (a whites load) (I lost another sock, darn it!) and then I thought about it again and decided I’d climb the mountain the next morning.”

Yes: “The mountain loomed before me. I had my hunting knife, some trail mix and snow boots. I had to make it to the little cabin and start a fire before sundown or freeze to death for sure.”

Steer clear of meandering endings

They kill a story! Your last line should be clear in your head before you start. Yes, bring the audience along with you as you contemplate what transpires in your story, but remember, you are driving the story, and must know the final destination. Keep your hands on the wheel! Pace your story so it is comfortable for you. (For those of you who would like a little guidance, we suggest roughly one minute to introduce your story, three minutes for the story arc, and one minute to reach your conclusion.)

Know your story well enough so you can have fun!

Watching you panic to think of the next memorized line is harrowing for the audience. Make an outline, memorize your bullet points and play with the details. Enjoy yourself. Imagine you are at a dinner party, not a deposition.

No standup routines please

We LOVE funny people but require that funny people tell funny STORIES, not a series of one-liners.

No rants

Take up anger issues with your therapist. Or save a few bucks — skip therapy and shape your anger into a story with some sort of resolution.

How to prepare

  • Consult our calendar to find our published theme. Our theme can be interpreted literally or figuratively. We encourage folks to be “creative” with our themes without completely going off the rails.
  • Conjure, channel, craft and compose your story.
  • Practice so you can remember it without the benefits of paper. Then practice it so you can keep it down to five or six minutes. Practicing isn’t just about getting your timing down, but also to help you know when to take a breath, engage the audience, speed up or slow down the pace for dramatic effect, pause for an “ah-hah” moment, etc. Tell it to your plants but know that they are a tough audience. Revise. Rework. Curse your plants for not believing in you! Revamp. Finesse. Shave off another two minutes. Try again. Voila! Forgive your plants. Indeed, they helped you see the light.

This guidance document is inspired in large part by The Moth, with additional inspiration from Massmouth and Fugitive Productions.