By taking stories “on the road,” walking storytellers build on a central theme to weave the stories of homes, neighbors, city founders, ghosts and “incidents” into a memorable and fun tour.
For your home tour, walking storytellers are guides who have researched the lives and times of the people as they lived and celebrated in your neighborhood’s homes. They share well-crafted stories filled with humor, drama, love, mystery or adventure.
A walking storyteller can help residents and visitors understand the dynamic history of homes, businesses, theaters, historic sites or parks. Whatever stories need to be told, they create a way for all ages to enjoy and remember.
- Begin crafting your tours by selecting a central theme that fits your specific community. Some examples include, a river or garden district, focused around a park or architectural style, and occupation of the residents. Individual topics will vary with each walk.
- Next, look at the individual snapshots of life for each home on the proposed tour. How did people live, celebrate, work, recreate, persevere or prosper? Where did residents come from? Who lived where and when?
- Mix the stories so they range from the city’s founding fathers to the first time residents, if you can find a common thread. Add a touch of humor and drama, cultural diversity and vary the ages of those in your stories.
- Keep visitor feet moving. As a general rule, people can stand for short periods of time before becoming restless and ready to move on to the next stop.
- Stories do not need to be long to be effective. Asking a question about a historic fact to provoke visitors and following up with an answer of a few words can be just as effective as a longer story. Mixing the stories – short and longer gives your visitors time to ingest what you say.
- Bring along artifacts, letters or photos, if available, to give your visitors a tangible connection to what they are seeing.
As you progress through the walk, be sure to give clues to indicate how far you have come. One of the best ways to conclude your walking storytelling tour is to reconnect a fact or idea from your last stop back to the beginning. This helps reinforce the theme with your guests, so they too can see how each story is woven with the others.
Over time, your stories will grow through neighborhood story sharing and additional research. Ideally, the audiences who want to hear them told will grow too.
Information adapted from “The Art of Walking Storytelling,” March/April 2009, The Interpreter. Author, Virginia A. Hirsch owns a Wisconsin-based walking tour business.