Nonprofit 411: Are you telling a good Story?

mechthildBy Mechthild von Knobelsdorff, Story Connect

Are you telling a good Story?

Everybody does Storytelling these days. One person proclaims she does Storytelling when in fact she only holds an interview. Another person’s Storytelling is a dry elevator speech. Yet another person actually tries to tell their Story, but ends up with a list of facts. So what makes a good Story?

Don’t be discouraged, everybody can learn how to tell a good Story. To become a good Storyteller, follow the Secret Story Set:

Journey to the Land of Detailed Imagination

(1) Take your audience on a journey

When you go on a journey, you need to know how and when and where you are going. You need to say when and where your Story is taking place. You need to enable the audience to follow you to the other place. For example, you could say: I walked here from South Station. Or you can say: Yesterday, when I stepped out of the elevator at South Station, a cold wind blew around my neck. Which one takes you on a journey?

Just like every journey, every Story is about change. Your audience needs to know what the change is, and where their journey ends. Once you takeyour audience on a journey, you want to keep them there with you. The next point helps you doing that.

(2) Details and Imagination

Details are crucial for Stories. Your audience needs some details in order to anchor their imaginationwhich is where the true power of Story lies. A good Story grabs our attention. We don’t think of our emails, of the tasks yet to be done. We are fully immersed in the Story. In order for that to happen, we need to know enough so that our brain can construct the scene. Instead of saying: “He lived in a village. One morning…” you can say “He lived in a village. The round houses had walls of brick, and the thatched roofs had been torn apart by too many storms.”

It may seem inefficient to use more words. Yet, it is not about quantity, but quality. You only need to give your audience the right clues for them to do the heavy lifting, and let their imagination do the work – a good Storyteller knows what to expand on and what to leave out.

There are many other characteristics of Stories. Once you master the core principles, you can expand from there. Creating suspense (“I knew something had happened”), setting the tempo depending on the action, using humor and direct speech: all are elements of good storytelling.

Now we are left with one important question: Can YOU tell a good Story? Yes, you can. You can do it if you practice. Even the best Storytellers practice their Stories. Practice, seek guidance, practice and practice some more. Storytelling is no miracle!


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