Taking a good story and turning it into a compelling one comes with practice and learning. Great stories can even be more interesting if you improve your storytelling skills. Storytelling skills are present when a speaker or writer can tell their own story or even someone else’s story and hold the attention of the listeners or readers with ease. These are the people whose own storytelling abilities have listeners or readers hanging off every word spoken or written.
If you would like to join the ranks of great storytellers, this article can help you. Here, you will find tips on how to be a better storyteller orally and through fiction writing. You can be a better storyteller, tell a great story, and keep the audience engaged with just a few tips and some practice.
What Makes a Good Storyteller?
A good storyteller gets the audience’s attention and keeps it by telling a short story, news story, a real-life story, or writing. Good storytelling occurs when certain things happen, and we will discuss those things now.
1. Be Relatable
Audiences and readers like great storytellers to whom they can relate. They do not want to feel talked down to. They do not want to have to pull out a dictionary or thesaurus to understand the content, and they want to be entertained, even when the content is nonfiction.
2. Know Your Audience
If you are trying to improve your oral storytelling skills, knowing your audience is one great way to become better at entertaining your audience and keeping the audience’s attention. The use of body language is a great way to keep an audience’s eyes on you, and adjusting something as simple as that can help you immediately improve your skillset.
For example, if your audience is children, you should consider speaking in a loud and fun voice to keep kids from tuning out. Your body language should be a bit exaggerated as well. Rather than a short little wave, give a big wave with both hands. Instead of just speaking, act out some of the things you are talking about.
3. Develop Your Social Skills
Social skills are important to develop far more than just making new friends and getting invited to work parties. Learn to talk to people outside of storytelling and then work it into everyday conversation. For example, you could discuss news stories with a coworker during your lunch break, learn the other person’s cues, learn their personality, and engage in conversation to make them comfortable and interested. After you have discussed something general like stories in the news, you can move on and start telling more personal anecdotes.
Grow your social circle, tell new stories when you can (no one wants to be the guy who tells the same story every time people are around), and work on getting the reactions you are hoping for in the interactions and storytelling you do with this circle of people. All of this may seem like a lot of work, but you will become a better storyteller over time because you have given yourself the tools and practice to become the main character in your own narrative and have learned how to entertain your peers in that manner. If you can entertain your peers, you are one step closer to entertaining an audience.
4. Keep Things Interesting
When public speakers engage in storytelling, the last thing an audience wants is a boring and predictable story. You end up with an audience that starts watching the clock and zones out instead of watching you and zeroing in. Telling a story with a few curveballs, twists, or surprises can shift the focus of the story and put the focus back on you as the speaker. The point is to keep the audience guessing rather than showing them where you are going and then taking them slowly.
This works in many facets and jobs in life. Salespeople are constantly trying to wow potential customers by shifting from one point to the next unexpectedly and shifting the narrative in a new direction.
5. The Use of Emotion
A storyteller who can connect to an audience by using emotion in their words, actions, and writing creates memorable experiences for the audience and holds the audience’s attention for better and longer than those who simply give facts. Telling a story is an art. The art of storytelling is made better with the use of emotional narratives. Your listeners will have more interest in a story that takes them on an emotional journey rather than a cold narrative. Audiences feel more connected to the message when there is emotion in your words.
As a listener or reader, the craft of storytelling allows you to imagine a different world, learn something, feel something, and relate to someone because they were able to communicate an idea or story well. It does not matter if the person decides to speak or write—storytelling comes in many forms. The following are some famous storytellers who have instilled fear, hope, laughs, and wisdom with their audiences.
1. Walt Disney
Walt Disney created a surprising world of joy and happiness through drawing and oral storytelling skills and shared it with many people. With his art and stories, people of all ages were eager to listen to whatever ideas he had, view each of his characters with wonder and imagination, and look up to him. He was a master storyteller who devoted himself to entertaining each listener and viewer with his characters and stories, right from the beginning of his career.
2. Steven Spielberg
The answer to modern movies and storytelling on the silver screen, Steven Spielberg redefined what it was to tell a story by taking the viewer on an exciting and moving journey. A director of enormous talents, Spielberg learned what viewers find most helpful in understanding a film’s plot and the heart of the story, and he has cemented himself as one of the best storytellers of this century.
Spielberg has never stopped listening with films ranging from Jurassic Park, a nail-biting adventure thriller about reanimated dinosaurs wreaking havoc, to Schindler’s List, the heartbreaking story of the Holocaust, to what his audience wants. He is a master storyteller through the use of film.
3. Stephen King
Dubbed the “master of horror,” King’s storytelling started at a young age. Writing comic books with his brother in grade school and then later writing some of the bestselling books of all time, King has firmly cemented himself as a master of storytelling through his fiction novels.
Somewhat mislabeled as an exclusive writer of the horror genre, some people are shocked when they find out that he wrote the stories that inspired the films Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile. King knows how to reel a reader in, and in the course of one story, he can scare you, break your heart, make you hopeful for the future of humanity, and make you laugh. These are all signs of great storytelling abilities.
4. Bruce Springsteen
This American music legend tells stories of the lives of ordinary people through songs in a way that has inspired politicians, advocates, protesters, students, and blue-collar workers alike. His songs speak to everyone about different facets of life and can make a listener feel a plethora of emotions.
Best known for his ballad “Born in the U.S.A.,” Springsteen gives hope to the average working American that the rest of us, those who are not famous or wealthy or “important” by society’s standards, matter and have stories of our own to tell. He is one of the most relatable musicians and a master of storytelling through song.
One of the Oldest Forms of Art
Storytelling goes way back to the days when men lived in caves and drew on the walls to tell of the adventures and things they experienced. It endures infinitely. A true sign of our need as humans to tell our stories and matter to someone or something, storytelling is one talent or skill that everyone should practice to make the most of. In the end, each of us is a story, and we should tell that story the best we can.