Path To Story, Chapter 38: Take The Pebble

In my relatively short time here I have met many who want nothing to do with collaborating, including authors, business owners, or churches. Like usual, it seems to be left to musicians to lead the charge. As a musician, collaboration makes some of the greatest songs. I have had the privilege of being part of several bands, and a few made albums. I have also written some solo albums, but the ones I made with others have a team aspect that my own albums sorely miss. It is the ‘team aspect’ that my family’s story times have begun to adopt.

It could be because my stories are too slow and boring now that my kids are older. It could be now that I’ve told my kids hundreds of stories, they are getting the picture and are wanting their turn. Or it could be that they’ve seen me eat too many cold meals and they want to give me a break. Whatever the reason, now I usually only get a few minutes to set up the story, then when things are about to get good, one of my kids takes it over. No one is safe. Characters from various sources are employed to create stories, I assume, you have to be 10 years old to understand. Much like passing the baton in a relay race, only this time it gets passed before you even know it, I have taken a backseat and let my kids run with the story.

This new chapter of storytelling has revealed to me what my kids want, think about, and how they think about it. Back in the day, I would either read children’s stories to my kids, tell some from my own past, or make them up from whatever. Now, my kids are mostly done with children’s books, they have their own past to glean from, and their creativity can hardly be held back anymore. In a way, this is awesome and is pretty much the whole point. My kids still rely on me to start the stories, but now I get to witness them begin to practice telling their own. Much like a Martial Arts Master who challenges his students by telling them they won’t graduate his dojo unless they are able to take the pebble from his hand, as a parent, I don’t know of anything greater than watching my kids take the pebble from mine.

But not so fast! The next chapter will tell about how my family recently survived a 12-hour black-out all thanks to God, storytelling, and Monty Python…

A Path to Story, Ch. 4: Accents

If you are wanting to unlock a new level to storytime; if you want to tap into the characters of your kids’ favorite books and bring them off the pages; if you are ready for more of a challenge/embarrassment, there is nothing more effective than adding a good accent.

For me, I learned most of the accents I incorporate in story time from watching movies. Being a musician who learns primarily from hearing it first, movies have been a great way for me to figure out how to do it. This may not be the best way for everyone to learn accents, but since I don’t know any other way, this is it.

Learning accents is mostly done by trial and error. This is where the challenge and embarrassment are found. Most of it is by hearing, but if you can find someone/actor etc. who you can watch closely, you’ll see it is also in the muscles of the face, the shape of the mouth, and the movement of the tongue. All three of these aspects are used to create different accents. If you watch enough documentaries on a specific people group you can even see common expressions and facial features that lend themselves to the different ones. When employing an accent, it helps to let your face mimic what you see. It links your memory to the sound in a visual way.

Now other than documentaries, most if not all of the movies I learned from probably wouldn’t be ones I’d recommend to watch with the family, but I’ll list them along with the accents so you can at least know some options.

Australian- Crocodile Dundee, Steve Irwin

Chinese- too many martial arts movies to count, Jackie Chan movies
are pretty good, Rush Hour movies, Shanghai Noon and
Knights

East Tennessee Southern- I lived there for 5 years so I caught it
from them

English- Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Beatles documentaries,
Austin Powers movies, Sherlock Holmes movies, Spice
Girls, James Bond movies, really there are so many just
take your pick.

German- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, WWII movies

Irish- Lucky Charms commercials, U2 documentaries, Liam Neeson
movies, Chris O’Dowd movies

Jamaican- Psych tv show when Gus does it, Bob Marley
documentaries (not a lot here which is probably why I’m
terrible at it)

Pirate- Pirates of the Carribean, Veggie Tales’ “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”, a lot of shows have pirates in them

Scottish- So I Married an Axe Murderer, Brigadoon

Spanish- Antonio Banderas movies- Puss in Boots, Zorro etc.

These are just a few I’ve used and/or tried to use along with the movies/bands/actors etc. that exposed me to them. Sometimes it’s fun to slaughter accents and not be so worried about authenticity. Unless your kids know different, it’s all good. I’m not from these areas- lived in Michigan for most of my life, so I don’t know how accurate they are, but it passes for story time and that’s all I care about.

One thing about websites that try to teach accents, I have yet to find one that is truly helpful.

For any of the women storytellers, I imagine it would be helpful to find women who articulate these accents. Sorry, most of the ones I know, except the Spice Girls, which is why I included them, are male.

Now after you get accustomed to any of the choices above or of your own, you can pick whichever character to have whichever accent. Unless it is in the book or linked to a movie, Puss in Boots etc., you should be good to go. Try not to go too thick with any of them as it is more important that your kids can understand you.

As always, remember this is supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, then let it go. In the end, I hope you find the bravery needed to master the use of accents. It has made story time that much more enjoyable for me let alone my kids. You’ll know you’re getting a little cocky with it when you begin to use it to fool people into thinking you’re from somewhere else. If you are that brazen, you could undoubtedly share some insights of your own.