Master Class in Storytelling

Available for Scheduling in your community

What makes storytelling a powerful way of communicating? A careful balance of technique and art. 

Once techniques are mastered, they can be applied towards effective storytelling.  This seminar provides tools for making everyone better listeners and tellers through both technique and art.

This is an intensive master class in the art of storytelling for all  storytellers — beginning, intermediate and advanced tellers. Level of competency is not as important as commitment to the art of telling and the art of listening.

The stories can be from folklore, history, mythology, biography, or the religious scriptures of all traditions. 

Each participant is asked to bring 3 stories to work on during the class.  They can be from any source, and should be between 10 and 30 minutes long. Your learning will arise not only through your telling, but in your listening to all the other tellers with their rich repertoire of stories and storytelling styles.

How is this a “Basic” Master Class?

Each teller is free to choose any three stories for telling. Other Master Classes require stories around a particular theme, or a single long story that can be told in three episodes.  The Basic Class is perfect for tellers who wish to develop new stories or delve more deeply into old ones — folktales, legends, myths, biographies, memoirs, parables, fables, literature, history, etc. This is the only master class that is offered every year, usually during January in Florida.

What is Narrative Visualization?

“Narrative Visualization” was developed by Robert Béla Wilhelm in his doctoral research (1969-1976) at the GTU in Berkeley, California. 

Rather than focusing exclusively on the written texts, Wilhelm encourages crafting the visual images of the stories. He understands that storytelling is a process of constant feedback and interaction between spoken and written words and visual images.   

In short the central question in narrative visualization is:

“How does the teller draw on both his or her interior words and images in order to ‘talk story’ with his or her audience?  And, how does the CHOICE OF WORDS in verbal performance and gesture create for the hearer images in the mind’s eye that evoke a spontaneous response from the heart?”

The master class in storytelling is a practical approach to achieve the awakening of the imagination and the heart of those to whom you speak your story. 

How is this Master Class conducted?

1. The group is very small, no more than seven persons, guaranteeing personal one-to-one work with Dr. Robert Béla Wilhelm.

2. The setting is respectful and supportive.  Storytelling and storylistening is at the heart of the I-Thou encounter between ourselves, our communities, and the story itself. 

3.  Participants are diverse: women and men, young and old, from across North America… and sometimes from the far corners of the world. Our fellowship extends from the class sessions to table talk at our meals.

4.  Each participant brings three tales she or he is working on, from Folklore, Mythology, Literature, Legends, History, Sacred Tales from your spiritual tradition, etc.  The choice is yours.

5. We do not memorize any written texts since we do not memorize words. Our methodology is a "visualized narrative" that emphasises (a) dramatic unfolding, (b) developed characterization, and (3) vivid description. 

If you have memorized stories in the past, this master class will teach you how to visualize your stories instead, and be a far more powerful teller of tales.

We hold the story in our mind’s eye, and then use words and phrases creatively for the listener’s ears.  If we do this well, the listener sees our told story in their own mind’s eye. Words are the vehicle for communicating the Vision.

6. In our sessions, we form a semi-circle and begin with someone telling their story.  When done, we take quiet time to let the images dwell within us.  The teller then shares his or her experience and evaluation of their own telling.  The teller then chooses whether or not to listen to feedback.  

Feedback is guided by Robert Béla Wilhelm, step-by-step with (a) the images experienced by the listener most vividly, followed by (2) emotional responses to those images.  Only then do we discuss (3) meanings — in the plural — of the story, and (4) application of the story to varied settings in ministry.  Creative suggestions may be made to shaping and telling the story. All other Tellers and all Listeners are encourage to participate..

Finally, Wilhelm may introduce some topic or theme that arose out of the story that invites reflections from Literary criticism, Performance theory, Folklore studies, and Spiritual traditions.  

Each session is one hour.  We often do not reach the final stage of the process because of intense discussion on the story and our reactions.

7. Three of the sessions are not storytellings, but lecture and discussion with Robert Bela Wilhelm.  Topics for the 2018 Master Class are

Tuesday - “How Oral Narratives Work: the Art of Crafting a Story for the Telling"

Thursday - “The Basic Laws of Aural/Oral Narrative: the Neurobiology, Psychology and Sociology of Telling & Listening"

Saturday - “How Insight and Meaning Unfolds:  aesthetics, ethics, and spirituality for Tellers & Listeners." 

If you have questions,  please contact us here: 

Robert Béla Wilhelm

© Robert Bela Wilhelm 2017