SOME FRIENDLY ADVICE FOR STORYTELLERS
Take what works for you, leave the rest.
THE SHORT VERSION
- Prepare to get on stage and tell a true story from your life on the theme of the night without notes in 5 minutes or less.
- Do you know what your story is about? Compelling stories are often ones in which something significant happens or changes, where there are high stakes, where we start somewhere and end up somewhere else or even back where we started, transformed in some way.
- Be sure your story has an arc: know where to begin, where you tend to skip ahead or wander, and where and when to end. Plan your first and last lines!
- Include descriptive details and dialogue: let us see what you saw, hear what you heard, and feel what you felt.
- Oftentimes stories are about much more than the series of events they're describing. Be sure that all the details and scenes you include (and omit) support your expressing what really matters.
- Practice telling your story aloud start to finish a few times with a timer, you’d be surprised how fast the time flies. The night of the show our timekeeper will play a note at five minutes, again at five and a half minutes, and at six minutes they’ll keep playing until you stop.
- If you want to sketch out your story, or write an outline, that’s great, just try not to get too attached to a script: monologues, speeches, sermons, essays, and stand-up routines are not the same as stories.
- The Bee is uncensored and open to the public (21+). You decide how much to disclose: what to say and what not to say.
- As long as your story is true, you are welcome to change names of people and/or places to protect your privacy and that of others - still, be sure you're telling your own story, one that's yours to tell.
- We’ll be recording audio for our online archive. You can opt out of having your story published afterwards (we hope you won’t) but people in the room can’t un-hear what you share.
- Be yourself, be honest, and enjoy the experience!
THE LONG VERSION
First of all, there's no one "right" way to tell a story, there are many, many, many, many ways. That's part of what makes getting together to listen to each others' stories so fun and engaging.
A story can be defined broadly as "an account of incidents or events," though in telling true stories from our own lives there's nearly always a fair amount of reflection mixed in.
More than anything else we encourage you to be yourself, be honest, and enjoy the experience. Personality goes a long way, though plot counts too.
What comes to mind when you think of the theme of the night? Follow that thread and see where it gets you. If you're reading these words, you've probably already done this, and your story likely includes one or more of the following; a revelation, a transformation, high stakes, an unexpected twist, a rite-of-passage, a confession, a confrontation, humor, romance, drama, tenderness, irreverence, anger, absurdity, pain, recovery, or something else important to you.
Descriptive details and dialogue transport us into your experience; let the audience see what you saw, hear what you heard, feel what you felt. When you get embarrassed, we start to sweat, as you're waiting for that phone to ring, we’re the ones with butterflies. Timestamps and place names can very useful too in helping us understand the context and sequence of events. Some stories start right in the action and circle back for explanation, others begin more slowly with a preamble, how you shape your story is totally up to you.
Stories are living things, which evolve in the telling. Each time a story is told the storyteller must choose which details to include and omit, which reflections to share or withhold. These decisions are influenced by the content of the story, the intended audience, the timeframe and context of the telling, even the mood of the storyteller on a particular day. With only 5 minutes on our stage, you are guaranteed not to be able to include everything you want to.
Consider what scene/transformation/revelation/feeling/universal truth is most important to communicate, what is this story really about? Oftentimes stories are about much more than the series of events they're describing. Be sure that everything else you include (and remove) supports your expressing what really matters.
Know the bones of your story, and still don't be too tightly bound to them. Telling a story is different than reading one aloud. There is a particular freedom that comes from sharing a story extemporaneously - carefully prepared but delivered without notes or text - that isn't the case when reading one fixed to the page. Having said this, be sure your story does have an arc: know where to begin, know where you tend to skip ahead and/or wander, and especially know where and when to end. Know you first and last lines and avoid a lengthy prologue or epilogue as this can dilute the impact of the story.
Writing can be helpful; go ahead and sketch out your story if you want to, perhaps the key points, even a quick list of scenes. But remember, don't get too attached to a "script" and no notes on stage. We strongly discourage the recitation of speeches, memorized essays, and stand-up routines – they just aren't the same – we sincerely want to hear your stories.
As for practicing, we suggest telling your story aloud start to finish several times without notes, either to yourself or a willing and attentive listener (who won't be overly critical). Some folks find that recording themselves and then listening to the audio can be helpful. Use a timer and keep it close to five minutes, so we don’t obnoxiously interrupt you (the timekeeper will play a note at five minutes, another at five and a half minutes, and at six minutes they’ll keep playing until you stop).
There's no such thing as one "perfect" telling of your story. Prepare, do your best, trust your story and your self. You may find that taking a day or more off between practice sessions to be beneficial; beware of over-rehearsing to the point that you yourself get bored of your story (it can happen!).
Regarding the judging, this is a competition, albeit a friendly one. Here are the judges’ criteria:
- Does it feel and/or seem true? We can’t fact check, but we can think critically.
- Is the story on the theme of the night? Creativity is welcome here.
- Is the story from the storytellers' own lived experience?
- Does the story have an arc; a beginning, a middle, and an end?
- Does something happen, does a transformation take place, was something at stake, was it interesting, did you like it?
- Is the story told within the allotted timeframe?
The Bee is both wholly uncensored and open to the public (21+ or 18+ depending on the venue). We do our utmost to provide a brave space for you to be yourself, with a respectful, attentive, and supportive audience. Many find the stage to be an empowering place: there’s something about allowing your life to be witnessed as art that makes your blemishes beautiful.
Please consider the benefits and caveats of posterity; it's up to you to decide for yourself what parts of your life you want to shed light on, and what parts you don't. As long as your story is true, you are very welcome to change the names of people and/or places to protect your privacy and that of others.
If you do get on stage, we'll be recording audio of your story to add to our online archive. If you share a story you don't want published publicly, you can let us know and we won't include it, though we aways like to say that the audience cannot un-hear what you share.
Please keep in mind there's always the chance you'll put a lot of time and attention to preparing, you'll be nervous throughout the night, and then in the end, your name won't get called. In this case, we hope you still take the opportunity to share the story with friends and loved ones and/or bring it back to share on another night (when it fits the theme).
Finally, we may well have no clue what we're talking about. You are very welcome to disregard our advice and do your own thing! And while we don't necessarily recommend it, some people even show up the night of the show and just go for it with very minimal (if any) prep and do great. We always love being surprised by the many ways people show up to tell their stories.
Regardless of the outcome, we hope you enjoy the process of creativity and self-discovery that preparing a story provides.