Explain that one person will aim to retell a story which the rest of the group has created without their input.
To start, ask one person to leave the room, to a space where they cannot hear what is being discussed by the rest of the group.
Upon the volunteer’s absence, ask your group to nominate two ‘things’ – one ending with a vowel and the other ending with a consonant, eg kangaroo and train.
This is the story: when the volunteer asks a question, if the last word ends with a consonant, the group must answer “YES,” and if it ends with a vowel, the group must answer “NO.”
Invite the story-teller to return to the group, and inform them that the story involves the two ‘things’ nominated by the group.
The story-teller may only ask questions which can be answered with a “YES” or “NO” response.
The story-teller starts by asking their first question, to re-create the story.
Encourage the story-teller to keep the story moving, to create a beginning, middle and an end to the story.
Allow the story-telling to continue for 10 to 15 minutes.
At a point when the story appears to have reached a conclusion, lead your group into rapturous applause.
Finally, reveal the true story was based on the last letter of each of the story-teller’s questions.
How To Play Narrative
This game is so cruel, it’s wonderful. Unlike many other games, there really is a trick to this one, and everyone knows about it except for one poor soul.
With your whole group bunched together, explain that in a moment one person will volunteer to leave the room, and while they are gone, the group will develop a short story which everyone will remember.
The task for this volunteer is to recreate the story with a beginning, a middle and an end. And this person will create the basic elements of the story by asking the group a series of questions which can only be answered with a “YES” or “NO” response.
At this point identify your ‘story-teller’ and then ask him or her to leave the space.
Now, the thing you haven’t explained is that, strictly speaking, there is no story. But, of course, the ‘story-teller’ doesn’t know this.
The ‘story’ is – when the story-teller asks a question, any time the last word ends with a consonant, the group always answers “YES,” and if it ends with a vowel, the group always answers “NO.” As simple and as tricky as that!
To get the story started, ask your group to nominate two ‘things’ – one ending with a vowel and the other ending with a consonant. For purposes of illustration, let’s say the two things are ‘kangaroo’ and ‘train.’
You’re now ready to invite the ‘story-teller’ back into the space.
Announce to the ‘story-teller’ that to help them re-create the story, there are two things which are featured, and they are in this case – kangaroo and train.
The story-teller launches into their first question, and with confidence that will inspire them to think that the group is very clear about their story, will receive an emphatic “YES” to every consonant-ending question and a resounding “NO” on a vowel-ending question. Not that they know this, of course.
On the surface, this game may seem cruel, but really it’s not. Because, the delight that strikes a story-teller’s face when he or she concocts the most absurd element to a story, and yet the group answers with an emphatic “YES” is priceless. ‘I-am-so-good-at-this’ will be written all over their face.
As facilitator, keep the story moving, and ask the story-teller on occasions to recap the facts as they know it so far. Don’t labour any part of the story for too long, and offer suggestions if they get stuck.
Allow the story-telling to continue for up to ten minutes, after which time, encourage the story-teller to seek an ending.
Finally, at a point when it appears the story has reached a conclusion, lead your group into rapturous applause.
It’s at this point, I often exclaim how wonderful the story was, especially because it was so bizarre, and … has never been told before.
I then reveal that, in fact, the real story was based on the last letter of each of the story-teller’s questions.
Practical Leadership Tips
As facilitator, be sure to keep the story moving, and like all good stories, seek out a beginning, a middle and an end. Guaranteed, the story will be bizarre, but that just adds to the fun and laughter.
Of course, there are occasions when the facts don’t seem to make sense, when a question is answered one way (because it ended in a vowel the first time,) but is answered differently the next time (because it ended in a consonant.) It’s all part of the thrill of the chase.
Be sure to honour Challenge by Choice and always seek a volunteer who is likely to be resilient in the face of looking like a fool in front of their peers.
Naturally, this is one of those games you can only play once with the same group.
You could integrate The Story Game as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a good laugh, and for this game, you can expect a lot of it.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully play this game with sensitivity and fun may speak to the benefits of having developed a positive and supportive environment in which to play, ie you want the game to be fun for everyone and not to persecute the storyteller.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which The Story Game could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Story-Telling Team: Invite two people to become storytellers. This is possibly even more hilarious, as you observe the interplay between the two storytellers.
Silent Story: Take a look at Charade Line to enjoy an equally enthralling, story-telling group experience.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Once you have selected the storyteller, invite them to leave their (physical) room or to switch off the virtual video and microphone for a short while – so that you can lead the group discussion about the story elements.
When ready, alert the storyteller to return to the primary virtual room, and proceed as normal.
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Useful Framing Ideas
What is the most bizarre story you have ever heard? It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction, and I think that is true. Well, I invite you to help me tell one of the most bizarre stories ever told, right here, right now…
Everyone loves a good story and I promise you that this one is going to be a doozy…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this very entertaining, story-telling game:
How did it feel to be the story-teller, at different points along the time-line?
What observations did you, as a group, make of the story-teller? What did you make these mean?
Did you, as part of the group, ever feel a guilty pleasure? Why?
Do you think the story game was a trick?
What do you think was the purpose of the story game?
The inspiration for The Story Game, and many more thoroughly-entertaining large group games, was sourced from the following publication: