Main Body

Setting the Tone

Click play on the following audio player to listen along as you read this section.

the image is consisted of 5 emoticons (from left to right): smiley face, disgusted face with tongue out, angry face, loving face with hearts, awkward smiling face

Part of the magic of storytelling is that it can reduce the distance between people. It can create connection and community. In a world where loneliness is far too common, this is a valuable gift.

Stories reduce the distance between people when they honestly tap into the emotion of the events. If the emotions are exaggerated, the story seems dishonest. If there are no emotions, the story will also seem dishonest.

It can be difficult to honestly tap into the emotion of our stories. Many of us are not used to identifying our feelings. Our feelings vocabulary might need room to grow. Below is a list of words that might help you build your vocabulary.

friendly loving curious fascinated hopeful
confident proud empowered safe excited
amazed surprised thankful inspired joyful
amused thrilled calm pleased relaxed
an old man holding a baby

A story can contain many different emotions. The overall emotional feeling of a story is called the tone. For example, the tone of All the Important Things might be described as hopeful. The storyteller has found a career that allows him to help others with HIV, and he is hopeful that he will have a bright future despite his illness. The tone of 7th Word might be described as curious. The storyteller is surprised he knew the Lakota word for berry pudding and curious about what else he will learn from the world around him. The tone of Go Around might be described as empowered. The storyteller is empowered because she is able to use her voice to keep herself and others safe, and nowadays people listen to what she has to say.

Digital Story Spotlight

Monte Hallis took part in the first workshop the Center for Digital Storytelling ever held, back in 1993. Monte created Tanya, a digital story about friendship. Monte built a friendship with a mother who was dying of AIDS. This was before there was a treatment for this illness. As she tells her story, Monte sounds like she is talking to a trusted friend. The emotional honesty of the story draws viewers in.

  • What feelings can you identify in this digital story?
  • How would you describe the overall tone?

Watch Tanya.

Think back to the events in your story. What feelings did you have during those moments? What overall tone would you like to create in your story?


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BC Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamental English - Reader 6 Copyright © 2015 by Shantel Ivits is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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