The Art of Good Storytelling

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When one is asked to recall a story, we generally think of the peripheral factors that characterized the story, which made it stand out and noteworthy amidst the thousands of other things that we experience in everyday life. Why do we still remember our childhood storybooks? Perhaps because they had colors, pictures, big letters, simple words and plot, was read to us in a sing-a-song manner, or even because we have re-read them to our little ones. Similarly, when we think of Obama’s Presidential speech, it stirs up emotions in us because of the content of his speech, his eloquence, his determination that one could hear in his voice, his effective emphasis on certain words, the various issues he addressed and the like.

 When I think of great storytellers, the first few people who come to my mind are Socrates, the great Storyteller of Greece, Shakespeare, the great English poet and playwright, and my grandmother, the 87-year-old reservoir of knowledge in the family. All these three people, whom I have mentioned, used the traditional form of storytelling, that is, through word and expressions. Times have changed and so has the medium of communication. From the word of mouth we have moved to digital words all over the wired world; but the gist of good storytelling still remains the same – entertainment and/or sharing of knowledge!

This is one of the videos that really caught my eye and held my attention till the last word was spoken. Besides the educational message that reached me, this video also urged me to think about the elements that a good story must comprise of in order to be effective. I reached the following conclusions:

  1. It must have a meaningful and thoughtful message.
  2. The readers should be able to connect with the story.
  3. The content must be coherent and concise.
  4. It must build upon the viewer/listener’s understanding.
  5. The use of effective imagery (through words and pictures) or narration (through voice modulation, choice of words and expressions) can help the receiver remember the story better.

There are so many tools at our disposal to tell a story in today’s world such as blogs, biographies, picture charts, animations, flip books, banners, advertisements, hoardings and the like, besides the conventional storytelling tools like books, novels, films, documentaries, etc. All these media work towards conveying a message effectively to their audience. Not only does it have to drive home an educational or moral lesson, but also a good story keeps its receivers engaged till the end. With the basic idea communicated well, there are no loose threads hanging out as there are clear-cut and straightforward answers/solutions provided. A story appeals to its readers/listeners when they are convinced of the matter provided in the story. Some stories might keep them at the edge of their seat; some might just make bring a smile on the faces. Everyone has their own set of issues to deal with; a bad or ill-constructed story is a recipe for disaster when an individual is seeking refuge from pedestrian troubles.

Drew Keller from TheStoryGuide lists seven tips to good storytelling namely:

  1. Craft the foundation,
  2. Grab attention,
  3. Establish setting,
  4. Humanize,
  5. Build tension,
  6. Deliver a turning point and
  7. Communicate the outcome.

While Sean Buvala, a national storyteller and Coach offers five simple steps to successful storytelling – with the objective of keeping the end as impactful as it should be!

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