The Art of Storytelling
When I first started writing I read as much as I could about how to tell a good story. It’s amazing how just very simple changes in the words that are used can change the entire makeup of a phrase even though they say the exact same things. Depending on the situation, sometimes you are forced into using a certain form or style of writing, but when you tell a good story you can let it flow freely.
Telling a good story isn’t something that just for writers. Everyone tells stories every day. Whether you are telling your coworkers about your commute to work, speaking to your spouse about your day, explaining to your boss why you should be the head of the project, or if you’re trying to impress someone you’re selling to, everyone tells stories so storytelling is a skill everyone should have.
There are certain elements that are obvious to a story. There has to be a normal experience with a person, then, something interesting happens to them. The person will react, have a series of events, and end with the problem being overcome or consuming them. There’s much more to any story than that, but a story must start with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Within those components are the opportunities to tell a bland boring story or a memorable one that will set you apart from others.
Take going to the store for a loaf of bread. I was out of bread yesterday, I went to the store, bought a loaf of white bread, and came home. There’s a beginning, middle, and end but that story is about as bland as they come. Try this; I was making a sandwich for my nephew that was still napping in the guest room. I’d promised him a sandwich when he woke up. After taking out the peanut butter and jelly, I reached for a loaf of bread that wasn’t there. Panicked, and not wanting to wake him, I snuck out of the apartment, raced to the store on the corner street, played ‘Frogger’ with the traffic as I crossed the street, and ran into the store.
Upon arrival of to the bread isle, I tried in vain to remember the kinds of bread he didn’t like as my mind was consumed with the pair of women looking over the organic bread section, still in their yoga outfits, sweating from a recently finished workout. I pushed the beauties out of my mind, knowing that very soon there’d be a meltdown in my apartment and no one to contain it.
I grabbed some white bread, not taking any time to chat up the beauties as I rushed past them. I got to the register, and the vagabond in front of me seemed to have the lights on but nobody home. He argued with the hipster teenage checkout girl over expired coupons. I looked at my watch before looking at the clock on the wall. I knew that very soon I come home to a ransacked fridge if I didn’t get this sandwich made.
The hipster, her abundance of bracelets clicking against each other, finally caved and accepted the expired coupon just to get the line moving. I tossed my bread on the counter, handed her some money, got my change, and rushed out back into the jungle of the city. After almost getting run over twice and almost causing three accidents, I made it back to the apartment, thankfully to a nephew that was still safe and sound, asleep in the bed. I finished his sandwich, woke him up, and we had a wonderful afternoon playing together.
The two stories were exactly the same, took us to the same places, and ended at the same place, but the second was much more vivid, much more detail, and would be remember better. There’s many twists and turns the story could have taken. If the lead character got hit by a car and had to go to the hospital but he didn’t want to tell anyone he left his nephew alone. He could have flirted with the yoga women and met his wife. He could have budged in front of the vagabond and gotten into a fight. There’s much that could have happened that would have changed that story.
Each part though worked towards the whole, in a progressive ordered that kept the reader interested in the story and whether the protagonist would get back in time or not. By knowing the basics of a story a person can make all their communications more interesting, gripping the listener and keeping them hanging on until the end. Learn to tell a good story and people will want to listen to you, and that can lead to all sorts of wild adventures.
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