Do you have a story to tell?
Wish you could learn how to tell a better story?
Want to understand different storytelling skills?
You can be a storyteller! Yes, even if you lack some literacy skills, you can still tell and write a great story. If you’ve recently lost a loved one or if someone you love is in declining health, you may feel compelled to tell their story and share their life. Or perhaps you want to tell your own story while you can remember the details and explain what you valued most. Those are all good reasons to tell a story. And you already have—or can develop—the storytelling skills to tell it!
The good news is that you don’t have to be a prolific novelist to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and tell an interesting story. And although most of us will never be a world-famous writer, there are certain storytelling skills that we can learn in order to engage readers with a meaningful tale. In fact, you don’t even have to be published to be a writer. The only qualification to be a writer is to… well… write. So, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get to the meat of this article: how to learn the most important storytelling skills.
3 Ways to Learn Storytelling Skills
As with any skill, it takes practice. And storytelling is no exception. In terms of methodology, you can tell a narrative thematically or sequentially. In other words, you can tell a story related to certain subject matters or moments in a person’s life experience. Or you can tell a story from start to finish. With both techniques, you can write as things come to mind or you can create an outline in advance that will help keep you organized and on track through the writing process.
Study the Art of Writing
To write, you first must read. We highly suggest learning the craft of writing as well as reading the work of different authors. You may want to read fiction, memoirs, biographies or autobiographies. However, instead of reading purely for entertainment, read for understanding. Listen for their voice, their language and the communication methods each author uses to tell a compelling story. Notice how they develop a character and how they portray dialogue as well as what details they tell in a story and which lesser important details may be left out.
Write while you are reading. While you are reading, buy yourself a journal so that you can start writing each day. Take notes along the way in order to teach yourself what is most compelling in your readings. A journal may feel less intimidating than a blank page. Take time out each day to record some details of the day and funny things that happened along with any thoughts, discoveries or lessons learned.
Get Ready to Start, Then Finish What You Start
Give yourself a goal each day. Maybe it’s writing one page a day or one chapter a day. Just make sure that it’s a reasonable goal and that you’re not putting undue pressure on yourself. Whatever your goal is, start with the intent of following through with your plan. Find a comfortable place in a comfortable setting, then get to work.
Don’t worry about perfection. The object of writing is just to get everything down on paper. You can edit, add details, delete what you’ve written, and check facts later. During the initial writing process, just focus on writing. The first draft is just for you… and no on else. So, turn that internal editor away and just stick with writing whatever comes to mind at this point.
Look for the Story Within the Story
The real story in any situation is never what’s on the surface. The same is true for writing. Every narrative has a theme, which is a statement about life experience. It can be as general as good vs. evil or the truth always wins. Sometimes when you write, you’ll go off on a tangent. Your story can take you in a new direction that you never saw coming. That’s OK. Sometimes, it’s just something you needed to get out on paper. And sometimes that tangent may be where your real story lies. Or maybe you’ll need to regroup and refocus back in the direction of your main theme.
Use the five W’s and H: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Every main character has a story to tell. Continuously asking yourself these six questions will help you dig deeper beyond the surface story. There’s always more than meets the eye. In reading other stories and memoirs, you will notice that what’s on the surface is not all there is. Think of your story as an ocean. On the surface, it’s pretty plain and simple: water, waves, a few animals popping up now and then. But what goes on down below… it’s an entire world down there. And that’s what you’ll discover in your own story writing.
How Your Storytelling Skills Can Have More Impact
Humans have been telling stories since the beginning of time. From cavemen creating pictorial depictions on cave walls to early stone tablets and seers and town criers recording history on parchment paper. Us humans have an innate need not only to tell a compelling story but to listen to personal stories. Our brains are hardwired for it. And the best real-life stories are the ones that inspire us in a profound way. So, how can you create impact in your storytelling? Here are the three key parts of telling a story that will add impact for your audience.
- Focus on emotions
- Know the emotional triggers
- Create shared trust
It’s through feelings and emotions that stories are told and life lessons are learned: fear, courage, failure, success, loss, joy, frustration, happiness, difficult times, celebrations, and much more. Stories are also told through cause and effect, by creating tension, sustaining attention, allowing your audience to identify with the character, and thereby creating a trust factor between both writer and reader. Once that trust is created, the audience allows you to carry them through the journey of your storytelling.
Channeling Grief into Great Storytelling
Death and dying are personal, and they are experienced in individual ways. Writing has been described as one of the most therapeutic processes to help one through the grieving process. However, as grief is personal, so is the process and time frame that you handle grief. You may find other ways that are more therapeutic for you to manage your grief. There is no wrong way, as long as you are staying healthy as you work through your grief. We do encourage you to at least try writing. You may be surprised that great storytelling may help you discover something new about yourself.
Storytelling is a part of mourning. Sharing stories in support groups helps to provide an emotional connection to people, create community and enhance camaraderie. Many people find writing to also be a personal growth and emotional development process. Short stories have been used to both heal and cure because it helps to know that someone else has been through something similar… that you are not alone. So, through storytelling, you can receive the gift of being able to give a gift to someone else. In addition, many people find that reading the same book at different times in their lives will evoke different emotions, lessons, and more.
So, now that you know a few basics to develop your storytelling skills, go ahead and get started! It’s time for you to discover your own power of storytelling. Start reading, start journaling, and start writing. We can’t wait to see what happens!