Friday, December 20, 2013

The Storyteller's Toolkit: THE EYES

The Storyteller's Toolkit is a simple way to talk about the elements that storyteller's use to present a story.  These do not include puppets, props, costumes or anything extraneous.  You can certainly use all of those things as a storyteller, but they are not standard tools in the toolkit.  

The basics in the toolkit are as follows.

Voice:  If you missed this post, just click here.


Face:  If you missed this pos, just click here.

Hands:  If you missed the post, just click here.

Body:  If you missed the post, just click here

Easy enough.  In keeping with my new policy about blog entries.  We will deal with each of these one at a time.  Today's selection deals with the eyes.

Using the elements in the toolkit is what separates folks who just get up and tell a story, from a crafted tale performed for an audience.

I spent the last two hours jumping around the web reading articles about eye contact.  So, for starters, I will link over to some of the ones I found most useful.

This article was written by Debbie Dunn and it gives reasons why eye contact is important.

This post is from  It has tips about effective use of eye contact.  The blog is written by Sean Buvala. 

Here are some useful tips from a site called

Lastly, because everyone's got a point of view, here is an article that says that eye contact is not always a good thing.  Though, because of the way storytellers make eye contact, this doesn't really relate to us.  I still thought it was interesting.

The upshot is that there are lots and lots of articles about eye contact.  Everyone knows it is important.  You can use it to convince your audience of your point of view, psyche your audience into not realizing how nervous you are, show sincerity, connect with them, and on and on in an endless series of very good, solid advice.

The thing to understand about your eyes as a storyteller is that eye contact is just the very beginning of what you can do with them.  Unless you are working with an audience that has impaired vision, you can use your eyes to control your audience.  Some storytellers stumble on this mechanism without being conscious of what they are doing, but others figure it out and use it to its full potential.   

Here is a clip of the brilliant Diane Ferlatte making an audience jump through hoops.  Watch her eyes.

Your eyes have lots of power.  They are a perfect tool for keeping and guiding an audience.


1.  Create character.  Your eyes give the audience cues as to who is speaking.  Notice how Diane's eyes change when she drops into Eve, The Lord, and Adam.

2.  Cue audience participation.  Your eyes can let an audience know that something is expected of them.  Diane does this right at the onset of the story.

3. Comment on the the story.  When you are commenting on the tale, your eyes can let the audience know you are speaking directly to them out of story.  Diane lets the audience know her feelings about the whole 'unlucky' Friday.  Asides are also accomplished this way.

4.  Create atmosphere.  When you want to make the story scary, intense, light, silly, or you wish to change the current feel, your eyes can do that.  Open them, close them, narrow them, look form side to side, all of these things are typical things all people do with their eyes.  Whenever you make a choice to change the wideness of your eyes, it will set off a kinesthetic response in your audience.  They will know what is happening with that character because they know how their eyes feel when they are doing certain things.

5.  Warn your audience.  This is especially true for little kids.  Your eyes can give them a head's up if there is going to be something scary.

6.  Humor.  Your eyes can lighten an otherwise intense situation.  When Adam looks around to point out they haven't got any neighbors, we get to laugh at at a situation that is clearly about to escalate.

7.  Filling in the pauses.  Just because you are silent doesn't mean nothing is happening.  Your eyes can let the audience see what is about to happen.  They can also give off false clues so that you can spring something that is either funny or scary.  You can also let a character in the tale comment on the situation at hand with your eyes.

8.  Be wary!  With young audiences, if you cement the world of the story in their minds, and then you look off at a distant point and announce you see something, most of them will turn around and look in the direction you are looking.  It is funny, but a bit annoying if it disrupts the flow of the story!

I am certain you can think of many more ways to use your eyes for specific purposes during a tale, but these are what I consider the basics.

I would like to point out that I did not say that this was easy, but it can enhance your stories if you are willing to give it a try!

Happy Telling!

1 comment:

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