Top 10 tips for spinning a good yarn - from a real storyteller

The art of telling a good yarn
The art of telling a good yarn

It's National Storytelling Week so a good time for brands to forget the marketing jargon and get back to the roots of how to tell a gripping story that will have your audience rapt. Professional storyteller Fiona Angwin, aka The Yarn Spinner, shares her top 10 tips for winning over any audience - or consumer.

A story can carry us anywhere and everywhere… into a world where anything is possible

Spinning a yarn, or storytelling, is what I do. But why do I think stories are so important? Well, for me, it's all about imagination; a story can carry us anywhere and everywhere… into a world where anything is possible.

Stories help us to put our own stories - our lives and our feelings - into context and explore how we feel about them, even in the most fantastical settings.

So what do I think a storyteller needs to be able to do? Here are my top 10 tips.

1. Love the story you're telling

If you don't care about the characters and the story unfolding around them, why should your audience? If you're bored, if it's "just another story", then your audience has got no chance.

2. Adapt your story to your changing audience

In primary schools I know the age range I'm performing to, although if they bring nursery classes in it can be a challenge. But at events I can find it's all mums and babies, or a handful of teenagers. You can't just carry on regardless. Your job is to tell the stories they will engage with - that can keep you on your toes.

3. Connect with your audience

For me this means making eye contact with different members of the audience, that way I can see who is or isn't engaged with a particular story. And perhaps I'll tell a different style of story next, to pull them back in. Eye contact and energy are important for getting your story across - give it everything you've got.

4. Use different visuals

I use a lot of unique puppets in my storytelling. Some people engage with their ears, others with their eyes. Fresh visuals in a new story help people, especially young children with limited vocabulary, or people with English as a second language, to re-engage with the tale you're telling them.

5. Use different voices

I use lots of different character voices, which again keeps a set of stories interesting, as I'm telling for up to an hour, solo. You can also tell a story from the viewpoint of more than one character.

6. Don't make any one tale too long.

Using the same phrasing can help pull the audience in. When you see their lips moving with the lines - you know they're hooked

Vary the length and style of the stories, so people don't get bored, tune out, or know what to expect next.

7. Repetition can help... but only if it's relevant to the story

Stories often have someone repeating an action several times; using the same phrasing each time can pull the audience in. I've got one tale where the heroine (disguised as a servant) "went out though the back door, in through the front door, and danced with the young master". By the third times she does this, some of the audience’s lips are moving with the lines - and you know they're hooked.

8. Respect your audience

Adapt to them, but don't underestimate or patronise them. They are the people you're telling the story for, not yourself.

9. Use humour

Everyone warms to gentle humour, or can see the funny side of some situations, or types of behaviour.

10. Enjoy yourself

You're telling the stories to and for your audience, but you have to enjoy storytelling, too, or you wouldn't do it. Let your enjoyment come over and that will enhance your audience's pleasure

While there you are top ten tips for storytellers, of any kind. I hope at least one of them is helpful to you. And remember - have fun.

Follow Fiona's own story at



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