In this blog article, I will share some tips and ideas about story telling and engaging an audience. This information will benefit writers of all abilities.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Storytelling is an art. The art of sharing stories in the form of writing or telling it to an audience, in a way that engages their attention. There are many forms of storytelling, from fiction novels to stand-up comedy. What-ever type of story you share, it ultimately creates a relationship between you and the audience, whether they are physically in front of you or reading your words from a page. The role of the audience is to actively create the vivid, multi-sensory images, actions, characters, and events of the story in their mind. The role of the storyteller is to create these images. The relayed story is re-created in the audience’s imagination, a unique and personalised version.
A statement by the National Storytelling Network defines Storytelling as “an ancient art form and a valuable form of human expression.”
I love storytelling. Taking somebody else on a journey that only existed in my head or taking then through an experience I have had using all my senses to create the environment. Everybody can tell a story, we do it all the time! Telling your friends about the encounter you had with an ex when you bumped into each other or how annoying your manager at work is.
Stories are a building block of human connection. When telling stories orally, you are likely to be rather animated, using your arms as you speak and maybe even changing your voice to sound like a character in your story. When writing a story down, it isn’t as easy to engage an audience with words on a page so we must consider this. What we don’t do when relaying our day to a friend is talk about the environment – unless it is pertinent to the story. Setting the scene for a story will create an image in the mind’s eye of the reader as opposed to just concentrating on the dialogue of the story.
Storytellers usually concentrate on plot, character, setting, action and dialogue. However, description and language are also factors. If the story is to be recited in front of an audience, then delivery would also be something to consider.
I tell stories in Spoken Word form and I also like to rhyme, its my style of writing- but whether you intend on writing poetry or a fiction novel there must be a ‘journey’. That is essentially what you are taking your audience on.
Capturing their attention at the beginning is important but keeping their attention throughout the story is imperative. There are many factors to engaging the audience: suspense, empathy, humour for example. Remember the point of your story and don’t digress too much unless it explains a part of the story, don’t confuse your audience and risk them getting lost or bored.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to use your senses to create the environment in the audience’s mind. What can you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? All these senses will not be used all of the time, it just depends on what you are describing.
Storytelling is used to engage, connect, inspire and empathise. All stories have one thing in common- a narrative, after that, everything is variable so don’t compare your story to other people or published books, instead identify its level of engagement. A good story can convey a message, entertain or ignite a fire within your audience. Some people think that the art of storytelling is something difficult and complex, reserved only for certain skilled members of society. It’s not, we are all storytellers. You have probably already told a story today!
A great way to practice your storytelling technique is to write down something that you did or that happened to you recently and read it. Were you engaged? Did it give the intended impact?
Keep adding to it and re writing. It may start something like this:
“I got up, dressed and headed to work”
Keep adding to it giving more information, using adjectives (describing words) creating an image in the mind:
“…. I headed down the tattered, worn out blue carpeted stairs, barely fitting in the narrow staircase that had long since lost its paintwork on the bannister. I spent 5 minutes scattily searching around the small, messy front room, littered with last nights take away cartons and housing a lingering nicotine aroma for one elusive shoe before stumbling out of the front door- still fixing my shirt underneath my suit jacket.”
Adjectives help you to bring your story to life.
The exciting thing about stories is that they are yours and you can do what you like with them. You can embellish certain parts to make you sound braver than you were (we do this a lot when relaying stories about our life) or add bits to give it extra humour for example- it’s completely up to you. You are the editor!