3 Speaker Tools for Mastering Character Interaction In Your Stories

One of the most difficult challenges for many speakers is to master character interactions inside of their stories. This is because they haven’t quite figured out the proper and natural mix of narration and dialogue.

In my experience, too many speakers use way too much narration. As a result, they end up retelling the story rather than reliving it and they don’t invite us into it.

In this video clip, you’ll see that Martin did the opposite. He actually used too little narration. With just a little bit of feedback, you’ll see Martin’s quick transformation as he begins to go in the right direction with his scene.



Character Interaction Tools

The Physical Positioning – As you noticed in Martin’s clip, there was a moment when he started giving dialogue but he hadn’t physically changed back over to his own character. He was giving his own dialogue while still standing as if he was the police officer. When we deliver our characters’ lines, we must know exactly where they are looking and how (expressions) they are looking at the character to whom they are talking.

Because this officer is looking into the car, he should be looking downwards in that direction. Because Martin is sitting in the car, when he delivers his lines of dialogue, he should be looking up at the officer. Martin should be facing one way (to look at the office) and the office should be facing the other way (to look at Martin). There’s a lot to consider here physically but, if you really emotionally and visually take yourself back to that scene in your life, I believe it will become more natural for you to deliver the lines, looks, and posture of each character.


The Table and the Trophy – If you walked into my room and I had a table with a trophy on top of it, what do you think I want you to look at, the table or the trophy? Of course it’s the trophy. So why is the table there? It’s there simply to hold up the trophy. Well, in storytelling, the table is the narration and the trophy is the dialogue.

What we really want our audiences to see or witness is the dialogue. So why is the narration there? It’s there to set up the dialogue. If I say, “She looked me directly in the eyes and said, ‘Your dream is not for sale,’” what I want you to walk away remember is that “Your dream is not for sale.” That’s the dialogue. The narration (she looked me directly in the eyes and said…) simply sets up the dialogue and makes my audience wait for it.

Remember, in speaking, you want to tease them before you tell them. Using a bit of narration teases the audience by making them wait a little longer for your response (your dialogue). That’s a good thing.


The Voice – I’m not one for changing my voice too much just so my audience can distinguish between my characters. Instead, I use posture, positioning, and expressions to show which character is talking. In the clip, you saw Martin show a bit of nervousness when he was talking to the officer. When he was the officer, he showed more authority. You could feel those differences in his voice. However, I believe it’s usually a good thing to be subtle in the voice changes and Martin did a solid job of that.


There are many more tools but that’s too much for one blog entry. Feel free to join me soon in my 6-week Legendary Storytelling LIVE Virtual Series which starts in September of 2017. You can get all of the storytelling tools you need to keep your audiences hooked and keep you booked.


Your Turn

If you don’t mind, I’d love to see a mix of narration and dialogue that you use. Feel free to post one here. Maybe you can include one of your most powerful or even your most humorous lines.

For example, when my 7-year old son and I were watching a 74-year old equestrian from Japan compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics, the commentators kept mentioning the man’s age. They kept harping on it by saying, “He’s 74! Can you believe he’s 74? By golly he’s 74!” At this point in my speech, I say the following to my audience:

Narration: My 7-year old son turned to me and said…

Dialogue: “How old is the horse?!”


How about you? Do you have one you can share?

Craig Valentine

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