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Secrets of Good Storytelling

As the Native American proverb goes: “Those who tell stories rule the world.”

We all grew up wanting to be princesses and superheros. The power of their stories brought us alive, kept us company and lifted our spirits.

How do we harness this power of storytelling in our crafts? Let’s learn from two great storytellers.

Here are four effective strategies from Emma Coats, Pixar’s former Story Artist, and David Mamet, Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright.

  1. Start with the Essence of Your Story

Great stories have a central moral or message. It is the foundation they are built upon.

What do you want your audience to take home from your story? Will it be the twist that’ll leave them in stitches? Or the climax they never saw coming?

Answer these questions and progress from there.

2. Simplify and Narrow the Scope of Your Story

Simplicity is about saying “No” to most things. A great story should be simple and memorable. You may include a complex plot, but it should not overwhelm the audience or drive readers away from the central message.

Start by introducing a clear beginning and ending around your central message. Then outline the subplots and link key events.

3. Give Your Audience Someone to Root For

Not all heroes need to wear capes. They come in all shapes and sizes. They can be flawed or insecure, broken or timid. Nevertheless, give your audience a hero to root for.

After all, we rooted for Shrek, didn’t we?

4. Observe Good Storytellers

Being a great storyteller means learning from those who came before you.

Observe the storytellers you admire. Pull their stories apart. What makes them tick? What makes them unique? What do you like about them? What do others feel about them?

Nothing can beat doing your own research. And the techniques are universal.

Shafeeka Hafeez

Shafeeka Hafeez grew up escaping into a world of books where she discovered a love for writing and a fascination with trees. When she’s not taking up a new marketing skill, or typing out a blog post, you can find her Googling the best therapy for abandoned cats.

June 4, 2021

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