Bad At Storytelling? Get Better!
Most people are bad at telling a story. Why? It’s a very unnatural thing to take our stream of conscience and put it on paper, much less have to make sense to others. But there is good news, it is a skill that can be learned.
Writing Can Be Learned
Writing is unique because it takes a personal voice, unique to you, but also because it's a skill that must be learned and practiced in order to become better. But for some odd reason, no one considers writing to be a task, but rather an innate skill. In reality, it's both. You need the creative drive from within, but also some basic knowledge of structure to make your writings complete.
Some people think writing cannot be learned, we’re here to say that is 100% BS. You would never expect an elite athlete to admit they have never played their sport before, or a surgeon to begrudgingly spill the beans that they have never held a scalpel in their life.
So why do we treat writing/storytelling like anything else? Writing can often times be more complicated than the “hard” jobs out there, (doctor, lawyer, etc.) so why not treat the development of a good writer like any other profession?
Storytelling Is The Best Form of Communication
Learning to form a story is the first step in becoming a storyteller. Stories have parts, structure, flow, and above all else basic rules to follow. How can you possibility be expected to craft a good story without knowing what goes where? And you don't learn this stuff in school, although you should. Learning the basics of storytelling takes a few hours, and mastering it takes a lifetime.
What to learn the specific parts of a story? Check out our guide here http://reupp.com/blogs/7-steps-to-add-structure-to-your-fan-fiction-story
Crafting a story is about structuring your thoughts. You can express any idea you have, no matter what it is, in three sentences. The presentation of these sentences is key, you start with: the evolution of a statement, an explanation of that statement, and an full explanation of the solution. This is the typical act one/act two/act three structure you may have heard of before, but it’s key to understand why every story follows this structure.
Communicate Your Vision
You have a story in your head, but the key to becoming a storyteller is to get it out of your head and into someone else’s as accurate to the original as possible. In doing so, simply transplanting thoughts to words will not work. The reader/viewer needs to understand the context, your state of mind, the feelings behind the story, to properly understand your tale. In other words, a story isn’t just about who did what, and where. It’s about the feeling you get when traveling through a world that is foreign to you. A world with distinct characters, surroundings, and a clear purpose. The purpose is also referred to as a plot, but really it answers the questions of “Why?” Why are all these characters here, in this world, and what will they do that is signifiant enough to hold my attention?
Storytelling is powerful because it’s the way most people receive (and store) information. We cannot simply read a dictionary to learn words, we piece together meanings of words from the meanings of connected sentences (a story). Thus, to say anything of consequence, we need to first put together a meaningful story. When our stories are incomplete or nonsensical, no impact is left on our reader/viewer. If the story doesn’t make clear sense to them, they concluded that the story is poor and the writer is bad. The only way you can really fail at storytelling is to not accurately describe the basic parts of a story, thus leaving the audience confused and judgmental.
If you look at any good story, or any good piece of storytelling, you can find the same basic, effective parts of a story. Every good short story emerges you in their world quickly, and brings about a conflict to keep your interest.
The first part is a statement, clearly presenting everything you need to know (and nothing you don’t) to care about what happens next. The second part is the introduction of a conflict, something that gives challenge to the world and characters you understand and care about. The third part is the conclusion of your conflict, and the resulting effects it has on the characters and world you introduced in part one. This resolution doesn’t have to have all the answers, in fact you might want to leave the door open for another go around (in this case reverting back to step two and step three).
Be A Leader, Tell A Story
Every great leader has been a great storyteller. In the United States, The Declaration of Independence is probably the most effective piece of storytelling written in the English language. The story begins with a clarification of purpose, specifying the rights and natural law that should be blended into a single document for ruling a nation. The story continues to state that there are natural laws that cannot be bent or broken, and should apply to all people. The combination of strong language and (at the time) fantasy hopes of how a country can preside over it’s people. The author continues in a way that combines the systemic argumentation against past governments with the poetic storytelling of what can be. His vision was communicated well enough that it became the vision of his fellow countrymen, and soon to be law of the land.
This is a summery of the basics of storytelling, and why it is the single most important way of communicating ideas.
So if none of this stuff comes natural to you, don’t worry, it shouldn’t at first. But if you ever want to truly share your vision with others, the story structure is where you begin, and what you need to master.