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How to tell great stories

Stories are a fundamental part of how we communicate with one another. As human beings, stories are the "primary tools of learning and teaching, the repositories of our lore and legends. They bring order into our confusing world.

Think about how many times a day, you use stories to pass along data, insights, memories, or common-sense advice" (Edward Miller). From oral storytelling that dates back well before written language to current day digital storytelling — such as uploading stories and memories into a digital smart home assistant like Rosy — there are many ways to tell and share stories. 

When you tell a great story, you can entertain, educate, enlighten, or even persuade your audience. These can all occur within the span of a few minutes of a conversation, or throughout thousands of pages in a novel. While stories are memorable and shareable, how to tell great stories can be both simple or challenging. From sharing anecdotes around a campfire with friends or family or finally setting down to write a novel after years of study, a good storyteller will present their story in a way that is both understandable and also relatable.

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How to become a good storyteller

So, how exactly do you become a good storyteller? While some people are naturally gifted and charismatic storytellers, it isn't that simple for many of us. From feeling uncomfortable with speaking in public to the lack of confidence in the actual story itself, people face many roadblocks when trying to become proficient storytellers. Luckily, no matter why you seek to improve your overall storytelling skills, storytelling is a skill you can improve, as there are many tricks, tips, and ways to tell a good story. 

First off, you don't need to be a published author or a motivational speaker to be considered a good storyteller. If you are just a regular person, like me, who struggles with how to keep an audience engaged but also tell a great story to boot, here are eight tips that I've learned over the years. While I am still continually honing my storytelling skills, I have found that these tips, combined with time, practice, and a little pep-talk beforehand, have helped me learn how to tell great stories.

Start small

You don't need an all-encompassing story that spans generations and touches thousands of people with thought-provoking prose. If anything - I would suggest the complete opposite. Start from the small moments and transform them into stories. For example, moments that are as simple as your regular daily routine or a task you occasionally perform is one of the more creative ways to tell a story. 

Also, since these simple moments are usually more intimate and involved with your daily life, they are great pieces of story content that you can upload into Rosy, a smart home digital assistant. With Rosy, you can start small by uploading your narrations and images through the storytelling feature. Rosy will organize all stories and narratives, offer customizations, and share and connect these moments with friends and family. Also, if you are not quite ready to share your stories yet, Rosy will save them in a completely private location until you need to access them.

Provide a hook

A hook is designed to grab, and that is precisely what you want to do as a good storyteller: grab your audiences' attention. Typically, hooks are the short or bold statements that help your audience relate to your story in a personal and emotional way. 

A great hook connects with your audience. A great hook gives them an immediate story and message, offering something to think about or digest throughout their day. There are many types of hooks for stories, so when you begin to craft yours, make sure to craft a strong and memorable hook that directly connects your audience with what you are trying to say.

Leave room for imagination

In the words of science fiction and fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson, "The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon." Sanderson's point about leaving your audience "with more" is excellent advice. When you tell a story, you should accomplish two things - be descriptive enough to get your point across and give your audience something to think about or ponder. Overly flowery or descriptive prose can be quite clunky to listen to and even worse to wade through in text. 

However, if you keep it simple, and leave a few gaps or questions in your story for your audience to fill, it will enhance the story. For example, if you say, "Andrew glanced at the water cup," rather than "Andrew thought about dumping the water on Sarah," you're giving the reader a way to make their connections within the story. When a reader can solve the problem and subconsciously put pieces together - they often feel more satisfied and happy with the results since they use their imagination to fill the gaps.

Know your audience

Have you ever lost track of a story someone is telling because of jargon or overly complicated words? To ensure you do not confuse or lose your audience's interest, use layman's terms when you craft your story. While there are many creative ways to tell a story, a straightforward approach is to avoid using overly wordy or complicated verbiage. 

Overcomplicating your message can cause many readers or listeners to drop off or lose interest in your words. Remember, you can tell the same story to a five-year-old as you would a fifty-year-old. It is all on how you present your story to your audience, tailor your words, and make it identifiable.

Make the story relatable

While you would assume that a five-year-old and a fifty-year-old may not love the same story because of the gap in their ages, that isn't necessarily true. A well-crafted story can, with a prominent and identifiable theme, resonate across all ages. For example, Dr.Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham is a story about Sam-I-Am trying to get the narrator to try his favorite meal, green eggs, and ham. For such a simple story, with both minimal and uncomplicated words, it has endured for decades.

The message of the story resonates for both a five-year-old and fifty-year-old. While the child may relate to the narrator not loving something until he tries it, the adult may refer to Sam-I-Am as a fantastic salesman and motivational speaker. Regardless of how each age group relates to a story, there is one thing that still holds true: this story is easy to understand and easy to connect with.

While you don't always have to write a story that is relatable to a broad group of people, take note of who your audience is. You may not be successful with a story about farming practices to a group of people in the city, but that same story to a group of farmers at a 4H fair in the country? Try to make it relatable and use your audience to your advantage. 

Be humble

When you begin to craft a story, you can take inspiration from your life experiences; however, make sure you remain humble. While you naturally want to talk about yourself and your emotions while telling your story, you do not want to talk so much about yourself that you forget your audience and your reasoning behind the story itself. While people love to immerse themselves with others and their stories, don't go overboard with talking only about yourself.

Don’t be so critical

How to become a good storyteller takes a willingness to fail and also work hard to improve and learn from your mistakes. You may not learn how to tell great stories overnight. But with time, you can master the art of storytelling. Luckily when you use the Rosy smart home digital assistant, you can practice, save, and share your stories with friends and family. With its customizable features that enable you to narrate memories and stories alongside your photos, you have plenty of time to revisit your stories, rebuild your confidence and practice, and relearn past events and work through your mistakes so you can become a better storyteller and capturer of memories!

Show emotion

Another essential way to tell a good story is to make sure you are emotionally engaged with the subject. If you are not personally engaged, there is no way your audience will be. One of the many ways you can learn how to become a great storyteller is to make your characters and subject come alive through your words and emotions. If you are writing your story, put yourself (if the subject isn't about you) in the driver's seat and imagine what it would be like to be this character. Deeply feel the thoughts and emotions. Then write about it. If you tell a story in person, make sure to use body language, gestures, eye contact, and voice inflection to create a cohesive story that uses both language and emotion to make it successful.

A creative way to save your stories

If you are like me, you may have dozens of filled journals, boxes of scrapbooks and pictures, or even digital documents started with half-written short stories. Fortunately, with Rosy, I can now keep all of my stories and memories together in a single place. Not only does Rosy digitize and organize my photographs and documents with its built-in scanner, but it also provides me with the ability to customize my stories and narrate in real-time. 

Rosy is a place where I can record and save my stories. I can explore the many creative ways to tell a story through Rosy’s' narration feature, and I will always be able to adjust, revise, and save my stories for years to come.  

For more information on how you can use Rosy can help you easily record and organize your stories, join our waitlist.

 

About the Author

Julie Simpson is a freelance writer and SEO consultant from Mobile, Alabama. She also loves paddleboarding with her husky and spending time in her garden. You can see her work at spilledcoffeecontent.com.