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BONUS: How to Become One of Our Storytellers

Bonus: Published April 19, 2019

Do you have a story to tell but you're not sure how to do it? TITG story producers Davi Johnson and Sarah Blake are here to help! This bonus episode will give you insights into the story producing process with tips and tricks to help you get your story ready... AND! They'll share upcoming themes for the episodes. When you're ready, call our pitchline: (515) 519-6179.

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View a full transcript of the episode below.

Sarah Blake  0:00  

Hi, I'm Sarah Blake. 


Davi Johnson  0:02  

And I'm Davi Johnson. We are part of KaRyn Lay's production team. And this is a bonus episode for you today, because as you've been listening to the podcast, you may have thought of stories in your own life that you might be interested in sharing. And so we're going to share about the process and we're going to share some ideas so that you have a better idea of how to tell your story well.


Sarah Blake  0:23  

First, I want to say it is one of the greatest privileges to work on this podcast and to hear so many people's stories and testimonies. I cry over almost every single one. And it's just such an honor and a privilege that people trust us with their stories and the we get to be a part of sharing them. We've read so many wonderful reviews for this podcast. We're so happy that so many people are listening and loving it. 


Davi Johnson  0:45  

And so if this is impacting you positively, then the way that you can help the podcast—there's two ways. One would be to share it with your friends on social media and leave reviews wherever it is that you listen to the podcast. It actually really does help the podcast progress and reach more people. 


Sarah Blake  1:03  

Mention it in your Fast and Testimony meeting–just kidding.


Davi Johnson  1:07  

And the second way is to share your own story—is to be thinking about a story that you could share when you feel prompted to and ready to. 


In case you didn't know, anyone can submit a story to this podcast. We have a pitch line that you can call into, and you just give a brief synopsis of your story. A little bit of what the process looks like is we listen to that synopsis and then we can contact you and work through your story, and we coach you to be able to tell your story the best that you possibly can. 


Sarah Blake  1:36  

Okay, so let's give people some tips about how they can become a storyteller.


Davi Johnson  1:40  

Because you are a storyteller; you just might need to practice a little bit. 


So okay, first of all, it has to be your story. You can't be sharing a story that belongs to someone else. 


Sarah Blake  1:48  

So don't call in with a story of something that happened to your grandpa or your mom. 


Davi Johnson  1:52  

It has to be from your perspective. A lot of times other people's choices have an impact on you, so sometimes you need to include that, but it's all from your perspective. 


Sarah Blake  2:02  

Davi here is our story, coach. Tell a little bit about what you do to help bring out the best in people's stories. 


Davi Johnson  2:08  

I'm sure that you've probably listened to other episodes and you've heard that these are people talking about really real experiences—very important things that have happened to them. And it's kind of hard to tell, in a clear way, because you're so close to it. But there's some basics that can kind of help you understand how to tell it in a clear way. 


So one thing that we talk about a lot is following the story arc. 


Sarah Blake  2:34  

So if you remember from ninth grade English class, the story arc, and you have a beginning, a middle and end, an exposition at the beginning (where we learn the facts and the details that we set up the story). It kind of paints a visual picture. We imagine the person in the situation. And then we have some kind of conflict or obstacle and some kind of intention of what they want. And that's the rising action of the story while we go through that.


And then it usually comes to some kind of climax, something that happens, and then falling action and resolution at the end. And because this is a storytelling podcast capturing what it is like to live the gospel, the resolution often has a bit of a testimony to it kind of wrapping it up with what you learned from the experience or from the story. But I do think it's important to say we're not looking for only happy stories, or even "and that's why I have a testimony of tithing" kind of ending. 


But the resolution could be: "I went through this, I felt God's love and support; but, it's still really hard and I don't know what's coming next." That's okay, too. 


Davi Johnson  3:40  

I love that it's called "This Is the Gospel" because it's change. It's these experiences that really change us. So in that story, I think what Sarah was talking about with the resolution is we want to hear about that change. And sometimes it's not resolute yet, right? You're still in the process of the change, and you're still unsure, and I feel like really typical, actually. 


Sarah Blake  4:01  

But where you are now is kind of an ending.


Other things that have made stories really powerful are detail. KaRyn always says, "Paint me a picture with your words." So don't just say "I arrived in this in a small village in Morocco." That's cool. But you can make it even cooler if you say it's a desert environment, but surrounded by these Stark mountains. And as I rode into town, there were small shops and people selling bananas and the women are all in veils... The more detail you give us, all of a sudden it comes to life in the mind of the listener. 


Davi Johnson  4:31  

When you look back, what are some of the things that you imagine? Tell us about that, because that'll bring us with you to that memory.


Sarah Blake  4:40  

Another thing that makes the story strong is as you're telling it, try to think about whether there's anything you know that you're assuming your listener knows that they might not. Often that just looks like short little sentences that make it makes sense. Like: "And then I moved from this place to that place and I got a new job."


Davi Johnson  5:00  

Tell it to someone who hasn't heard it before, and then they'll be able to be like, "Hey, well, how did you end up in Alabama?" You know, we need to understand that. 


Sarah Blake  5:10  

There's a concept of "The Hook." In good, powerful storytelling, you start with a hook. And that metaphor, of course, comes from fishing. You can snag a fish barely on the lip, and then it can get away again; but if you've hooked it, the hook goes all the way in. That's what we want. A really powerful story has the hook that gets you and you can't let go. And you've got to hear the end of the story. 


I told a story about how we had a puppy that was really difficult and taught me a lot about forgiveness. I think I could have started that story by just saying "We got a puppy, and it was really hard." But instead I said, "So it was my idea to get the dog in the first place." Remember? It was my first sentence. And because I said it that way, then all of a sudden you have a bunch of questions in your mind. "So is she not happy that it was her idea so is she blaming herself later?" You want to hear a little bit more. And that was just a subtle thing in the way I worded it


Davi Johnson  6:01  

Actually the hook can be—I found it's one of the hardest parts. "The Moth" is a storytelling podcast, and there are a lot of good hooks on "The Moth." And so I think it might be helpful to just go through and listen to other storytelling podcasts to understand there's always this kind of a rhythm with the story arc, or for the hook because there's just so many ways to do it that I think the hook is really complicated to explain. But, I think if you listen to enough stories, you'll be able to start picking up "Okay, this is the hook. This is why it's a hook." And there are a bunch of different ways that I could do that.


Sarah Blake  6:37  

Another thing we cannot have is anything read or rehearsed. I mean, it can be practiced, but it needs to feel like a conversational kind of tone. Not a general conference talk. Not like you're reading from a paper. It has to sound alive. You've got to be telling the story, your voice rising and falling like you do when you talk to somebody. If you're reading it's amazing how two-dimensional it sounds compared to the three-dimensional sound of someone talking, like a real-life storyteller. 


Davi Johnson  7:05  

Yeah, it's crazy how different it is.


So Sarah and I have recorded stories for this, and Sarah really likes to have someone else in the room when she's telling a story. And she's really good at it. I'll sit across from her and just be like—


Sarah Blake  7:18  

It's just nodding because she can't make any sounds or it'll show up in the audio. 


Davi Johnson  7:22  

Right. But just sitting across from her and being like, "Oh, yeah, the talk did what?!" So then it just feels like she's telling a friend. 


Sarah Blake  7:31  

I'm way more interesting if somebody's there. 


Davi Johnson  7:32  

Yeah. 


Sarah Blake  7:33  

Talk in your real voice and do things that help you get into your real voice. I have little kids and we say prayers over meals and family prayer and stuff, and they all do a "special prayer voice." It's amazing how quickly children learn there's a "prayer voice" they're supposed to do. They all go softer and higher. 


Sometimes I think around gospel stories we feel like we're supposed to talk in a special voice, like a more reverent or more fancy, but, we want to hear your real voice people want to know real people. This is the gospel in real people's lives. So if you say "dude" all the time then say "dude" in your story. Don't feel like you are supposed to talk a certain way. 


Davi Johnson  8:18  

A lot of people say "um" say "like." Those are super easy to edit out. I would so much rather have a story that sounds real, that I just edit out occasional "um"s and "like"s. And a lot of times we don't even have to edit those out because that's just how people talk. So don't worry about that. And we promise we'll make you sound as smart as you are.


Sarah Blake  8:36  

Be prepared to hate the sound of your recorded voice. I like to say that I sound like a 12-year-old who's been smoking a pack a day for 20 years. It's not a beautiful voice... 


Davi Johnson  8:45  

Young, but experienced!


Sarah Blake  8:48  

Yeah, everybody goes into shock of "This is what I sound like?" But get get past it. You'll get comfortable and then I think you start to hear "I love my voice. I love the way I really sound." You'll get there and you'll feel proud of your voice. 


Be forewarned: sometimes we can't use every story. Sometimes it's maybe too similar to one we've already recorded or planning to use, or it doesn't fit with an episode theme that we have going on for a while, but we'll always save them. But we do have to make some decisions like that. Nobody should get their feelings hurt if we're not able to use it at a certain time. 


Davi Johnson  9:20  

Yeah, absolutely. And if we aren't able to use a certain story that doesn't mean that you can't call in with a different story, too.


Sarah Blake  9:28  

Let's talk about some of the upcoming episode themes. We try to map out themes and topics for the podcasts a while in advance—several months in advance. And then we want to put the call out there and have you, the listeners, submit some stories through the pitch line. We're not going to tell you. We're not going to define what this means. These are themes, and if they give you ideas, run with it. 


Davi Johnson  9:49  

Because we actually want them to feel different. We want a variety of stories in every episode. So if any of these themes spark a story in your mind, totally call in.


Sarah Blake  10:00  

So the first one is "It's the little things." 


Davi Johnson  10:02  

You know how people talk about in relationships, that they're like, "I came home and there was a single Daisy on the table." And then they say, "It's the little things, you know"—but from God. It's the daisies on the table from God. 


Sarah Blake  10:16  

The next one is "To the rescue." 


Davi Johnson  10:19  

Something that you felt saved and rescued, or that you were able to help in the rescue of someone else.


Then the next one we have is "In the line of duty."


Sarah Blake  10:31  

This one is going to air right around Memorial Day. 


Davi Johnson  10:34  

If you are a service member, and you have a story that you feel like could relate to the theme, we'd love to hear the story, but it's not only for service members.


Sarah Blake  10:42  

We don't want the story of sending your grandpa did or your dad—this has to be a first-person story. 


The next one is "How the internet has impacted our faith."


And then the last one is "The kindness of strangers." 


Davi Johnson  10:56  

It kind of speaks for itself.


Sarah Blake  11:00  

Those are five topics for the next couple of months. We have a few other stories in the works. Then we'll do another episode we'll talk about other themes to come in the future. For now, just know we want to hear from you. We can't wait to hear your stories and to get to know you and feel like friends. 


Davi Johnson  11:17  

We feel like we're best friends with everybody we've heard a story from.


I just feel so impressed by everyone who has shared a story so far, including the ones that we have not used. I'm surprised at how much it has blessed my personal life. I just feel like my testimony is greater and so I feel personally really grateful. Thank you to everyone who has already participated. You're blessing so many lives.


Sarah Blake  11:28  

I'm going to close by reading the part KaRyn always reads. You have a story to share, whether it's funny or touching or miraculous. We'd love to hear it. Call our pitch line at 515-519-6179, and leave us a message with a short synopsis of your story. 


Davi Johnson  11:59  

We've heard from so many of you that this podcast is making a difference in your day. If so, please take the time to leave a review on the Apple Podcast app or anywhere you listen to your podcast and tell your friends—it will help more people find us. 


See, I suddenly started reading. Could you tell the difference? Please don't do that in your stories. 


Sarah Blake  12:15  

I fell asleep, baby.


Davi Johnson  12:18  

If you're feeling like, "Man, I feel like I should share the story." But then you start thinking "Well, it's stupid because of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah..." Just share it anyway. We'd love to hear it. We really value all of the stories that come in on the pitch line. 


Sarah Blake  12:31  

And also as you think about or what kind of story, pray about it. If you've read the reviews, you see how many people's lives this is touching. That's powerful. I believe Heavenly Father cares about the way we help each other by sharing our experiences and the answers and blessings He's given us. I know that if you pray for help about telling and sharing his story, he'll help you with that, too.


Davi Johnson  12:57  

Yeah, absolutely. 


Sarah Blake  12:59  

So that's it! We hope this was helpful to you. We hope you see yourself as a potential storyteller. We want to hear from you and so do other people because you have a story to tell. 


Davi Johnson  13:08  

Yes, everyone has a story to tell.