“It was a dark and stormy night. A one-armed man had just escaped from prison…” Here's how to tell a good campfire story your friends and family will remember…
What is camping without a good campfire story? For many folks, sitting around a warm fire telling tales is the best part of their day.
It brings families and friends together, creating shared memories that last a lifetime. Jennifer and I have many good memories that started with old (and new) friends sitting around a fire.
But how can you make your story really good? After all, you don’t want to bore your audience.
With a little bit of effort and practice, you can take your storytelling skills to an expert level and be the “go-to” storyteller on all your trips!
The following are ways to help you hone your campfire story craft! I start out with tips for making your campfire tale great. Then, I give you an easy five-step outline to tell your own story!
7 Tips for Telling a Good Campfire Story
The following are some top tips for telling a really engaging campfire story.
Tip #1: Carefully Choose Your Story
Stories are always better when the storyteller is really invested in it. People can feel your energy! If you are bored, then your audience will be bored, too.
When choosing what story to tell pick something that really interests you. Maybe you have a “go-to” spooky or funny tale to share. Or maybe you've heard monster stories during your travels.
It's also great to tell a story connected to the location you're camping. For instance, you can tell about the most haunted places in Colorado or haunted places in Utah if you're visiting those locations.
Depending on your audience, you can also weave in a lesson. Are you talking to new RVers? Or maybe your grandchildren or children are with you? Consider teaching them something through your experience.
Of course, you can also share real-life crazy campground stories you've heard or experienced during your travels.
Tip #2: Embrace Nature
When you are sitting around the campfire, you are surrounded by nature. What better way to incorporate your environment than by including it in your story?
Do you have a great bear story? Or a harrowing hiking tale? If so, great! But, if not, you can always make one up and nature can help you!
Try to weave in what you see, hear, and smell into your story. For example, let's say you want to tell a spooky story on a windy night. You can open the story by describing your actual surroundings. “This night reminds me of something that happened years ago. It was windy, the branches were rustling above, the smoke from the campfire swirled around us, and then…there was a noise I've never heard before in my life but will never forget until the day I die…”
Tip #3: Practice, Practice, Practice!
We have all heard the old adage, “Practice makes perfect!” Well, it’s true!
If you have a great story to tell, consider practicing it to get it perfect. That way you can add inflection and other interesting engaging details when the timing is right.
You can practice your story out loud for yourself or one other person. Consider also how you want to move your body when telling the story. Pay attention to your tone as well. Your voice should be going up and down, louder and quieter, following the excitement of the story.
Whenever you tell the story to an audience, make a mental note of what worked and what didn't. Then, you can fine-tune the story for the next audience, and the audience after that.
Mike and Jennifer's Summer T-Shirts for your next adventure
Tip #4: Use Sensory Details
Every great story includes sensory details. When laying out the details of your tale, picture how each of your five senses would react.
Use the following sense to make your story come alive!
- Sight: What did you see?
- Sound: What did you hear?
- Smell: What did you smell during your experience?
- Taste: Did you taste something?
- Touch: What did you feel?
Just picturing these sensory details can help you to infuse your story with rich detail that will engage your audience.
Tip #5: Keep Your Audience's Attention
To engage your audience in a good campfire story, you need to start off your story with a hook. Something really interesting to draw them in.
Then keep the story moving quickly, and infuse it with those colorful, sensory details that really paint a picture for the listener. You want to make them feel like they are experiencing your story!
You can even bring the audience in more by interacting with them. Ask them questions to help build the anticipation.
Tip #6: Get Emotional
Engage your audience by tapping into their emotional side. Get them invested in the main character. Bring in the information that you know will touch their hearts.
Make sure they understand who the story is about before you tell them what happens to them. If they care about the character, they'll care more bout what happens to them. Thus, they'll be more engaged with your story.
The smallest details can accomplish this. For instance, instead of “There was a girl in the woods…” you can say “There was a young, vibrant girl in the woods, who always wore a smile and a headband in her hair…”
Tip #7: Read the Room
Perhaps this should've been the first tip, but you should always gauge your audience and read the room before you tell a story. You certainly don't want to tell a scary, ax-murderous story with young children or a possibly risque story around people you just met.
When you are telling the story, gauge people's reactions. If they seem disinterested or like they have a bad taste in their mouth, change it up mid-story or bring that story to an end quickly. Then, you can try a different story that may be better suited for them.
How to Tell a Good Campfire Story in 5 Easy Steps
The following five steps outline how to tell a great story around the campfire.
Step #1: The Set-Up
The first part of a good campfire story should consist of laying the groundwork for the rest of your story. In a way, this is your introduction.
Describe the setting of the story. Introduce the main characters. Usually, nothing really exciting happens in this portion. It simply paints a picture for your audience.
Remember to use Tips #2 & 4 by weaving in your natural surroundings and incorporating your senses.
Step #2: The Build-Up
Sometimes referred to as “rising action,” This is the build-up of your story. You have set the stage, and now is the time to start building the action of your story.
What are the small events that lead to your story’s climax?
Do not forget to include your sensory details in each part of the story.
Step #3: The Event
As your story progresses, you want to keep building it to an inciting event of some sort. This is the climax of the story. The one large event that the entire story is hinged on.
Is this where a bear appears in your camp out of nowhere? Or when a rock slide barely missed someone on a hike?
You will want to include one large event or climax in your story.
Step #4: Keep it Moving
Once the big event occurs, keep the story moving. You should not include too much more, but every good story should get tied up at the end.
Tell how things were settled or share the moral of the story that was learned from the experience.
Step #5: The Conclusion
Every good campfire story needs a good conclusion. The good news is you can choose from many different ways to conclude your tale!
Do you leave the audience with a cliffhanger? (Be prepared for some pushback if you do!)
Are there any lingering questions that need to be answered?
Have fun with the conclusion, but make sure that you include one!
Mike and Jennifer's Official Travel Guide – Michigan's Lower Peninsula is now available!
You are in for a HUGE adventure. While some of our guides are designed to explore an area in 7 days, this one can take an entire summer to see it all. We chose to start in Detroit and travel north up the “Thumb” region, but you can pick and choose any section you want to begin your adventure.
Each Stop in our Guide gives you at least 3 places to camp while exploring the area! The state is particularly well suited for RV adventurers and the Michigan State Park system is one of the nation's best. But don't forget the beauty of boondocking. State forests abound, most offering rustic and dispersed off-the-grid camping. We hope you pick this up and enjoy one of our favorite places in the US to RV!