Storytelling Fundamentals for Everyone

Storytelling is a way to connect with others, it will help you inspire, lead, create an impact on others, and much more.

In this article, we will look into how to become a better storyteller by compressing stories into bite-sized pieces, making ideas more interesting by telling them in simple lessons. We’re going to learn about how to inspire your audience, how to increase engagement, tips, and practical tools for creating authenticity. Let’s dig in.

Start with the why

Simon Sinek coined this philosophy in his book Start With Why. It’s about how great leaders inspire action by starting with why. Not how or what but why. By giving the why you will give the audience a promise, a context so that they can decide whether they want to invest in what you have to say or not. Start with your vision and lay it into your story. Watch this ted talk to understand this better.

Live up to your Promise

If you make a promise you better deliver. It needs to be honest and genuine. No click-baits. It will make your audience trust you, otherwise, they might never read or hear you again.

Understand you platform

Today there are so many different platforms, getting your story out there isn’t the problem anymore. You can tell your story to as many people as you want. But it’s also opened up an even greater challenge of how to tell your story correctly on each platform, like Instagram and YouTube.

Play by the rules of the platform. Google best practices and educate yourself on the platform you’re considering and how it generally operates in order to best cater your story to that audience. Because knowing your platform is critical to how you shape your story.

Hero’s Journey or the arc

Now, to create an interesting story you need an arc or well a hero’s journey. The hero’s journey basically follows a path of a hero that goes through an entire evolution to rediscover him or herself by the end of the story. You can look at any blockbuster movie and you can find the hero’s journey, any example, The Jungle book or Cindrella, there are tons of stories about a hero’s journey. And the better you understand it the more easily it will come to you to create arcs to create tension, to create stakes, to create a journey that you can take your audience on. It’s proven that it is part of our DNA as humans. We love hearing these types of stories.

Create Tension

Tension is the act of being stretched tight. Anytime you create a question, a hope, an expectation, or a doubt in your audience, it creates the interest in knowing more. It gets them excited about the discovery, about what will happen now. Tension creates Engagement and it is everything not just views not just likes but are people really engaging with your content. Are they sticking with it? watching till the end? reading till the last chapter? Staying in it because they don’t know the answers and can’t wait to find out what happens next.

How to use tension to create engagement?

Hold tension as long as you can to create maximum engagement and pay it off.

Tension is everywhere once you start dissecting tension and really start analyzing it you’ll notice it. It’s in sports, it’s in the headline you click, it’s on websites, they use something called jackpot effect.

There are 4 types of tension: Anticipation, Hope, Surprise, Pacing. Remember create space, create urgency, time it an unending thing is not engaging.

Know when to release the tension, do it in your own way, in your own style. Observe classics, make notes and apply them in your work.

Know your audience, who they are, why are they consuming this. The art is in how and what you really reveal. Make them feel, control the show. Leave no escape routes, don’t let them tune you out.

Tension and character

Build tension inherently into who they are. Think about a fancy buzzword people like, talk about complex characters. Create conflict, for example, in the movie Soul, it’s drama and comedy, two seemingly opposite emotions.

Look into Lubitsch touch, which is essentially tension that the audience knows but the characters don’t, leaving a lot to the imagination. A lot of tension that happens in Lubitsch touch is implied or it happens behind a closed door.

How do you start something? How about making a question in the audience's mind. Create an intention, a mission. Are you trying to educate your audience about something really preachy and probably boring? if yes, you have to do something that’s called putting the medicine in the pudding. That way you can get someone interested in a story they may not be on board for initially.

Your taste is the most important asset

It’s demonstrated in the work that you pass along to another, the movies, the music that you recommend. It doesn’t matter what your taste is. What matters is your ability to justify why it matters to you. You’ve got to start with a solid foundation of what you’d like. What’s meaningful to you. It’s not about your ability. It will evolve and develop and improve over time but your taste is really where your foundation starts. Taste has to be there and it has to be something that you strive to improve all the time. Understand the why, when I explain why I like something I have to explain what makes people happy or sad about something. What’s one movie you hate that everyone loves. And if you can’t think of anything perhaps you’re not thinking critically enough about the things you’re consuming or you’re simply like everything that you read, see and hear in which case you’re definitely not thinking critically enough because there’s a whole lot of out there.

Being Yourself == Authenticity

I think you can be more authentic if you’re making something that showcases who you are that way you can be genuine and real and really let yourself go. Be vulnerable, share things that you don’t want to. You should watch the ted talk by Brene Brown on vulnerability, she shined a light on this idea of vulnerability and what makes us vulnerable.

As helpful as it is to have knowledge of any sort, the way you’re going to get better at storytelling is through practicing, to actually going through the experience of writing or coming up with a story. In all your stories you need to understand that your audience is really busy, you need to get to the point very quickly with giving them context at least to start with why they’re going to listen to you and you can change that why throughout the story you can pivot but give them a way to start so they don’t just scratch their head saying why I’m watching this.

I will leave you with this quote by Jordan Peele:

Storytelling is the most powerful weapon we have for creating change.