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January 15, 2016


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What buzzword is the biggest buzzing word at the moment and, looks set to be for the foreseeable future? Storytelling.

Everywhere you look now, in a wide variety of industry and on a diverse range of topics, the word storyteling is there in all of its glory.


It is somewhat surprising that it has taken this long for the word to have its moment in the spotlight, after all it has been around for eons. More than that, people do it everyday in every walk of life so the fact that a word, which is enacted upon in everyday life, is now so in vogue is nothing short of startling really. 

Marketers are now rushing to be seen to be using storytelling in their ideas and campaigns, every man jack of them terrified their stories won't stack up against 'Jackanory masters'. Everyone can tell stories but not everyone can tell them well. So, are there tips and tricks to storytelling? Yes there are, take it from a master storyteller - I spoke to one and he said....


How do you know if a story is good? Because it will stay with you long after you have experienced it. Be it read or listened to, a story will envelop the audience so that it never truly leaves them. When you are creating a story you must do so completely. If you forget to discuss the visuals, the sounds, the feel and smell of the world you are creating then you story will be plain and boring. Only by using such sensory detail can you hope to effectively engage your audience with your story.


The best stories come from the heart, they relate to the storyteller so the audience engage with them on a personal level. While there are infinite numbers of stories, they can all trace back to 7 simple plot devices:

  • Hero defeats a monster
  • Rags-to-riches
  • Treasure hunt
  • Hero goes on a voyage of personal discovery
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth

Think of your favourite books, films or even presentations and you will, you should, be able to find one of the above plot devices in it.


A story will often have conflict in it. It is this conflict that helps to create a key component of any gripping story.....(insert dramatic music here)............suspense. How one creates suspense can be critical to the success of the story. It could be done in chronological order to build the suspense until the big reveal at the end or alternatively, it could be to switch between points in time so that the suspense is realised in a different, more subtle way. Never underestimate the use of surprise as a powerful tool to keep your audience on its toes.  


Central to a story are characters. Their inclusion allows the audience to relate to something in the story, even if the story itself is set in space, fantasy or the past. You must create characters that are rich in detail, ones that have their strengths and their flaws for creating the perfect hero will only discourage the audience from whole heartedly engaging with you.


When people remember back to a story they often do so by making reference to a specific moment and it is this moment that stays with them. The moment has to be of such force, such power, that it stands out as THE moment. Whether this is a fact, a statistic, a dramatic turn - the moment will depend on the nature of the story but that there should be one is indisputable.


Emotion. So powerful and should be delicately handled but when ending the story, the audience should be left with an emotional feeling or response. Some will say the emotional takeaway should only be positive but if you want your story to resonate, negative feelings (as in sadness) can work just as strongly. People prefer to see a story brought to a positive conclusion but don't force this, if the story does not warrant a positive conclusion then consider how you can end it in a way that will still be memorable.


And so my time with a master storyteller ended but I hope you'll agree that these tidbits of advice will help anyone to become a better storyteller, or at least a more rounded one. Whether you tell stories at work or just want to get better at telling stories at bedtime to your children, I think everyone should embrace - or rediscover - storytelling.

Storytelling conveys messages in an entertaining way, yes, but it also helps to build relationships and whether that's with clients or family, surely that's a positive thing.

(Of course, there is no master storyteller...but using a character to convey the points seemed a rather jolly idea to me!).


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