Guest Post: Bringing a story to life (Part 2)

Sally Pomme ClaytonSally Pomme Clayton, storyteller and writer, concludes her guest blog post on storytelling. This time she considers the advantages of a sensory environment to enhance stories and gives some suggestions for developing your own stories.

For more ideas don’t forget to read Part 1 and also the companion post on Sensory Stories from Joanna Grace.

Apollo are inspired by the potential that interactive and sensory environments have to develop and enhance storytelling. But using digital media is still an emerging form. In 2000 I worked with artist Rolf Gehlhaar to create ‘Walking on words’ for The Science Museum, an interactive storytelling floor which children could move across in any way they wanted, and play my voice telling the story in different configurations. I am currently telling stories at The Royal London Hospital where they have just opened a playroom with a floor that responds to movement with changing patterns and light. There is an interactive screen where children can become part of the image, and a colour and sound changing room.

An interactive environment might help children:

  • Listen and look.
  • Relax.
  • Use their body and voice.
  • Enter another world.
  • Develop characters and dialogue.
  • Explore gestures, movement, and voices.
  • Change or finish a story.
  • Tell stories themselves.

If you are thinking of developing an environment that tells a story, then drawing on the archetypal images in fairytales links your audience to a world they are already familiar with. Children will spontaneously use their imaginations to engage with the experience. You can draw on the huge pool of images found in fairytales all over the world:

‘Persephone’ by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustration by Virginia Lee, published by Frances Lincoln (2009)


  • Hero / Heroine
  • Kind Helper – flying horse; firebird; talking bear; wise magician.
  • Evil person – witch; bad wizard; greedy gnome; demon.
  • King/Queen (not necessarily from our world!)


  • Kitchen
  • Castle
  • Forest
  • Underworld
  • Sea
  • Stars

Impossible quests:

  • Fetching an object: Medusa’s head; the firebird’s feather; a golden apple.
  • Breaking a magic spell.
  • Rescuing someone.
  • Fighting a battle.
  • Searching for the Water of Life.

Magical objects:

  • Something that makes you invisible: a ring; helmet; cloak.
  • Shoes that fly.
  • Comb that turns into a forest.
  • Cloth that turns into a ship.
  • Weapons: sword that can cut anything; hammer made by dwarves.
‘Tales told in Tents’ by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Sophie Herxheimer, published by Frances Lincoln (2004)
‘Tales told in Tents’ by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Sophie Herxheimer, published by Frances Lincoln (2004)

Dangerous beasts:

  • Dragon
  • Troll
  • Monster
  • Sea serpent
  • Giant


  • Courage
  • Kindness
  • Resourcefulness
  • Determination


  • Fulfilment
  • Success
  • Wisdom
  • Friendship
  • Hope

Good luck with creating your own story world!