Who doesn’t love to gather around the campfire to relax after a long day of hiking and spending time in the outdoors. It’s where your family and friends sit and enjoy listening to great legendary tales and fun stories. But, as a campfire storyteller, you can bring a whole different kind of storytelling that will make your friends’ and family’s camping experience jump off the map!
Becoming an amazing campfire storyteller will not only earn you points from your family and friends, but they will want you to tell them more because you made your stories fun and interactive. But not everyone has that gift so we’ll show you some great hints on how to get your audience’s attention and keep them engaged!
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How to Become a Great Campfire Storyteller
When we think of campfire stories, we often think of spooky or scary tales of the chainsaw bloody dude or ax men lurking in the woods waiting to come get you in the middle of the night.
However, designated Storytelling dates back even too before our Native Americans.
“In American Indian communities, people tell legends, folktales, and fables. They tell these stories for many reasons: to recount the history of the people, to tell where they came from, or to relate the exploits of a particular hero. Often stories are told to educate children about cultural morals and values.”
And Bright Hub Education also shares in their article, Preserving History: The Importance of Storytelling in Native American Culture:
“As Native Americans explored their land, storytelling became an important tool. It was used to pass down traditions, such as local customs, how to live off the land, and how to survive in the natural environment in which they lived. … They also use storytelling to pass myths down to future generations.”
Today, storytelling resonates pretty much the same but with a little more embellishment and artistic drama.
I remember back when I was in the fifth grade, my English teacher, Miss English, was a fabulous storyteller. I recollect how she disguised her voice for each character in the book, Flight of the Doves. She would also insert her own sound affects by walking over to slam the door or slowly creak the floor. Because of her creative storytelling, our class was attentive and couldn’t wait for the next chapter. In fact, we would beg for her to read another chapter. She literally would leave us sitting on the edge of our seats. Miss English was good at storytelling because she put her all into it.
But here’s the thing. You can be just as good at storytelling as Miss English was with a few short lessons. So, let’s see what those lessons are so you can be on your way to being your own great campfire storyteller!
The Campfire Storyteller
As a Campfire Storyteller, you’re just like a teacher in a classroom. It’s your job to know your audience and keep them engaged. To do that, there, are things you should know, prepare for and even practice. Because once you become a campfire storyteller, you’ll go from Teacher to stardom! Your audiences will love to listen to your stories, tales and fables.
Assign an Campfire Tender
Of course, the whole reason for gathering is the campfire. So, you’ll want to assign an experienced fire tender, preferably an adult or older teen, to keep the campfire flaming bright. Your fire tender should be prepared with a good stack of kindling, split wood and logs.
For a good steady burn, your wood should be properly seasoned. You certainly don’t want wet or damp wood. Your fire tender should never let the campfire smolder or go out while you’re entertaining your audience.
But there may be times where you might not be able to have a wood campfire due to fire bans. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful evening of storytelling! You could simply opt for a non-woodburning campfire instead.
RELATED: Top 10 Portable Camping Fire Pits
You’ll want them to start the fire at dusk so it is at it’s prime when your storytelling audience gathers around to listen to your gripping tales.
Remember, the campfire not only provides an enjoyable atmosphere but also, it provides illumination so you can see your audience’s faces. And they of course, will see you and your facial expressions.
When your campfire is ready for gathering, call in the troops!
RELATED: 10 Campfire Safety Tips
The secret to becoming a fabulous Campfire Storyteller
Share your personal experiences
For light-hearted tales, tell about a cool experience. While kids may roll their eyes at ‘when I was a little girl’, still continue the tradition of passing down great stories as our grandparents and parents passed onto us. You’ll be surprised to learn years down the road when your children become adults, they will tell the same stories.
Dress the part!
Surprise your audience by making a grand entrance by wearing a costume that can set the scene and your character. Great simple costume ideas like a Dracula or devil’s cape, wizards cape and hat, a Lone Ranger or Zorro mask or magician’s hat, gloves and wand will bring your tales to life. Dressing the part will bring the character out thus, your audience will feel like they are actually in the story!
Bring participation props!
When telling a great theme story to kids, including props for your campers will bring out the best audience engagement. We all know kids will love being part of the story. And of course, the parents will love taking photos of this amazing campfire experience!
But remember, you’ll want to collect them all at the end so you can use them next time. Because they WILL want you to do more storytelling at the next camping trip or campfire! So, fill a foot locker trunk of participation props such as super hero masks, magic hats and wands, and even cowboy hats and bandanas to fit your story.
Engage your audience!
Speaking of engaging your audience, making them part of the story will keep them literally, sitting on the edge of their seats. If you’re telling a well-known fable or tale, assign your audience different characters beforehand.
Let them also get into character and give them the opportunity to help tell the story WITH you. Maybe they offer a different ending? Or maybe they portray a character differently than what you see. That’s perfectly okay because storytelling is about perspective and vision. It’s also about bringing out the imagination of each listener.
Disguise your voice!
When telling a great campfire tale, manipulate your voice to differentiate characters. You may want to prepare for this so you could tell a story just as if your listeners are right there.
If you’re impersonating a person from the south, bring out your best southern drawl. For those tales about things that happened in New England, you’ll definitely want to talk like a Mainer! And, don’t forget those cool times where your stories may take your audience to where the upper midwest accents are very prominent.
As well, use your voice volume to verbally display whispering, laughing loudly, and high pitched sentence endings. In other words, get into character when telling your campfire stories! Your audience will love it and love you for it.
Storytelling can be super fun for those telling the story as well as those around your campfire listening. When telling your tales, be dramatic. Put emotion into your words. And over-accentuate your facial expressions. They will be awesome in the campfire light.
So go ahead and raise those eyebrows, widen or roll your eyes, curl up your lip, grit your teeth and look surprised. And go ahead to yell, scream, cry, laugh and do what it takes to make your campfire stories be felt.
Use sound effects!
As I mentioned earlier about Miss English reading what could have been a boring book to us, but she was incredible at keeping our attention by using sound affects. I remember her stomping her feet, clapping her hands, purposely dropping something, panting, crying, etc., all the time keeping in character.
I realize some of those can’t be done around the campfire or in the tent, but you could use your voice to make those sounds just as easily. And if you really want to get creative, you could get one of those sound effect devices to use as one of your storytelling props.
But, let’s not forget that you could play some background music to make your story more lively and fun!
Add lighting effects
You can make your storytelling extra fun by adding in some lighting effects. While the campfire is the primary lighting point. Keep a bag of tricks in your pocket.
A small flashlight can act as a spotlight on either your audience or to light up an object. A small battery operated strobe light can be a hit when telling a spooky or scary story. And you can really dazzle your camper troops with a secret splash of fairy dust in the campfire that makes it turn different colors! And speaking of fairies, if you want to set a great scene, decorate your campsite or tent area with some cool fairy lights or laser fairy stars!
Keep your stories short!
Because your audience may be of all ages, attention spans may differ. So, keep your storytelling short. Allow short intermissions for loading marshmallows on sticks, making s’mores or pudgy pies and latrine breaks. This also enables you to get into character(s) for your next story, tale or fable. And of course, to grab a snack or a much needed potty break.
But really, how long should you tell your campfire stories? While the sky may be your limit, do appreciate your audience’s interactions. If you find they’re not really engaging or are distracted, shorten the story and perhaps, move onto a different vibe.
The goal of a storyteller is to not ramble; but to get out the short of it. By adding in the special effects, voice volumes, regional accents and keeping that fire stoked, your audience will follow your lead.
A pause for the cause!
By taking pauses throughout your campfire stories, not only are you preparing yourself to keep in character but also, by taking pauses, you can keep your audience attentive because they’re wanting to know what happens next.
Find some great campfire storyteller resources and material to use at the campfire!
There are several sources out there to get some great storytelling tales and fables. Here are a few popular resources for Campfire Storytellers:
Ultimate Camp Resource – Campfire Stories for Kids
Icebreaker Ideas – 14 Best Campfire Stories
RVC Outdoor Destinations – Campfire Stories for Kids
Campfire Marshmallows – Campfire Stories
Also, there’s a few books to take on your camping trips to act out while reading to your fellow campers:
Final thoughts on how to become a great campfire storyteller
That wraps up our how to become a great campfire storyteller article. Anyone can be a campfire storyteller. However, if you put a little forethought and work into it, you can be a GREAT campfire storyteller! Using the tips and resources we shared above, your campers, big and small or all ages, will enjoy gathering for nighttime tales around the campfire.
When you’re gathered around the campfire with younger kids, you may want to skip the blood, guts and gory details of the ax man who lives in the woods legend. You certainly don’t want to scare the littles into not ever wanting to camp again.
Do remember though, no matter what age the kids are, always end the night with a good hearted, funny or moral to the story type of campfire tale.
As you see, there are so many ways to tell a story with excitement and intent. Whether your stories are true, have a moral, scary or funny, tell them. And hopefully, your children will share those same stories with their children; eventually becoming campfire storytellers themselves.
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