Tips for Writing or Telling a Story
There is no right or wrong way to write or tell a story. A style that works well for one person may not work for another. Each storyteller must find the style with which he or she feels most comfortable. However, the most important thing in telling stories is to start the process. The following is a guide to help you develop your story.
Keep in mind why you have chosen this story. What message do you want your audience to take away from the story? Is there a lesson learned or new truth revealed? Stories need to reflect accurately what occurs. Often, however, they are composites of combined experiences that help the storyteller effectively make a point or convey a key message.
Consider the following when deciding when and what story to write or tell:
- Is the story appropriate for the particular group or audience?
- Which story effectively illustrates this purpose?
- Will the audience be able to identify with the protagonist and the problem?
- Should the story be serious or humorous?
- How long should the story be? One minute or five minutes?
- How much detail is important?
Every story has:
- A Protagonist – a person with whom the audience identifies (sometimes this is an agency or program)
- A Setting – the environment or situation in which the person lives or works (fixing the story in time and space)
- A Problem – one or more barriers or challenges preventing the person from achieving his/her goal
- A Resolution – how the person overcomes the obstacles
- A Goal – the desired outcome
Consider the following when writing a story:
- Consider your own writing style – some people like to just start writing while others make an outline
- Use clear, descriptive, colorful language
- Consider using first-person – it makes a stronger narrative
- Write as if you were telling this story to a friend or colleague
- Informal style or language is okay, but keep it appropriate for your audience
- Consider the cultural implications of your language
- Avoid long stories; you may risk losing your audience
- Use active verbs – consult a writing resource if needed
- Take care in your word choice – challenge yourself to find the words
- After your first draft, set it aside for a day
- Seek constructive criticism and be open to changing your story to make it better
Consider the following in telling a story (whether reading or telling from memory):
- Become comfortable with the story beforehand
- Assemble all the pieces of the story
- Practice by yourself or with colleagues
- Modify the details as needed.
- Look at your audience
- Alter your voice: conversational, whisper, shout
- Pause for emphasis or dramatic effect
- Show emotions: happiness, surprise, frustration, etc.
- Move around, use gestures, props
- Watch your audience and adjust the pace and tempo as needed to maintain interest