How to Be a Better Storyteller

There still has to be some truth in there somewhere. Something that makes a reader or listener or viewer go, “Ha! So true!”

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How does one tell a great story? Being a better storyteller takes some practice, but it’s easy, and fun, once you get the hang of it.

Learn to twist old stories into new ones

Have you ever had one of those moments when the realization hits you that none of your stories are original? It’s true, to a point. All stories have the same basic elements to them when you look at them from their foundations. New characters and settings and relationships make new stories, but sometimes borrowing from familiar tales and adapting them is also an effective, and entertaining, method.

Think of all the Disney movies you love. Those are all adaptions of fairytales and older stories. Many of those adaptions have since been adapted again … and again, and again (like, we love Peter Pan, but seriously). It’s okay to get creative and put a new twist on a story that has already been told. Audiences love it. They want to be able to identify similarities to the stories they already know and also marvel at the new elements you bring into it.

Focus more on your audience, and less on yourself

Sometimes we tell stories because we need to send a message we wish we would have heard previously. Stories help us cope with things we have been or are going through, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. However, we can’t keep the focus primarily on ourselves all the time. If stories were just for us, always, maybe it wouldn’t matter. But if you’re reading this post, it’s likely you don’t intend to write stories only you will read.

It’s fine, even wise, to start out by telling a story for your own benefit. We tell some of our best stories when they resonate with situations we understand. But always remember that you aren’t the only one who might be reading it. Always think of your audience. How will they benefit from the messages your story is sending? What do they need to hear? Is there a need that’s being satisfied? Create a checklist in your head and make sure you and your audience both are going to get something valuable out of it.

Exaggerate, but make it believable

Good stories are dramatic. They take seemingly normal events and exaggerate them in order to make them more entertaining. While stories often serve as a way for readers to step out of their normal everyday lives for a little while, they must also be relatable. There still has to be some truth in there somewhere. Something that makes a reader or listener or viewer go, “Ha! So true!”

Think of something that’s happened in your own life recently. Now imagine how, if you would have been in control of that series of events as a storyteller, you would have ‘told it better.’ We all exaggerate when we tell our own stories anyway (you know you’ve done it). Do the same thing when you’re writing.

So let’s practice, shall we? Tell us a brief story in the comments. A few sentences or a paragraph. Have fun with it. :)

Image courtesy of Flickr.

This is What Everyone Gets Wrong About Storytelling

At their core, all stories are the same. It’s the unique elements we choose to highlight that make them different from one another.

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Sometimes it starts to feel like all we see is the same old story told over and over again. Or the stories we read are all about the same people, or at least an archetype of that person.

You’re not wrong if you’ve felt this way: after all, every story that’s written has in some form or another been written before. Yet what many don’t realize is that this is actually a good thing. It’s a springboard. We can look at an old story and dissect it. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? What can we do different? What element can we focus on that hasn’t been focused on recently, or ever before?

At their core, all stories are the same. It’s the unique elements we choose to highlight that make them different from one another.

There’s this belief that only certain stories are worth telling. Bottom-to-top success stories, or unlikely hero stories, or stories about things already well-established people have done to make them even more awesome than they already are. Those stories are fine and they make us feel good. But aren’t we forgetting something?

Aren’t we forgetting that every single person has a unique story to tell? Maybe on the surface everyone’s story seems to fit into a general category of stories already told, but that’s because not everyone bothers to dig deeper. A story isn’t about telling an audience a beginning and an end. It’s about giving a completely new perspective on the journey a person takes from point A to point B, or the journey they are continuously on, and will be for the rest of their lives.

As a writer, it’s your job to find the uniqueness in every single story. Even fiction writers are responsible for putting a new spin on every idea, giving it unique features so that it sets itself apart above the rest. It’s not about research, it’s not about exaggerating the truth, it’s about finding the angle least often found. It’s about finding that one thing that makes someone’s story different, and creating something completely new out of it.

Pay close attention to those stories you assume everyone has heard before. Pay attention to people and places and fictional characters you don’t initially think are all that interesting. There is something special lingering beneath the surface. A good writer, a great storyteller, will find it. They will use it as their focal point. And they will create something truly amazing from what others never even knew was there.

Image courtesy of Abhi Sharma/flickr.com.