I’ve gotten some questions recently about storytelling, and I thought I wold share some of the discussion with everyone. First, let me clarify what I mean about storytelling.
To me, storytelling can be anytime you’re telling people something. That could be in the traditional sense like a novel or autobiography, or in a marketing sense like a marketing or social media campaign. Instructional design, script writing and video production as well as content development can all fall under storytelling – you’re trying to share information or persuade someone by telling someone something. I look at all these things as storytelling because it puts you more in the mind of getting your information out in a creative and/or interesting way that is more likely to hold interest and make an impact.
With that out of the way, let’s look at 4 ideas (and a bonus tip) that will hopefully make storytelling easier for you.
- Who cares? I know, everyone should care about what you have to say. Unfortunately, that’s not actually true. So ask yourself, who am I telling this story to? Who is going to care from the first word, and who do I want to make care? Spend a few minutes thinking about the audience the piece is for and what you want them to take away from the story your telling.
I know that’s the first step in any kind of writing, but too often I see people trying to tell a story, market something or teach something taking a shotgun approach – spreading the information as thin as you can to try to reach as many people as possible. The majority of the time that only makes the story boring and too diluted to have the impact you want.
- Watch your language. It’s no secret that when people write for business they write more formally, it’s what we’ve all been taught. But, that’s not always the best option. You need to look at the audience and the story you’re telling. If you’re talking about profit and loss margins something more formal is probably the best choice. If you’re talking about a client’s theme park or telling people about the time you were having such a run of bad luck that your left shoe fell down a sewer grate and you never saw it again, you probably want to be a little more informal.
What do I mean by informal? Using contractions for one. A lot of people seem to have issues using contractions in their writing, and that quickly makes everything more formal. Word choice is important too! Using slang can also be a big help in making what you’re writing more approachable. If your writing a young adult (YA) romance novel and say, “Would you like to go spend time at the local shopping complex?” versus, “Do you want to go hang out at the mall?” your reader is going to feel like they’re reading a text book – and chances are if they’re reading a YA romance novel they probably get enough of text books in their daily lives and won’t give your novel the time of day.
- Let your Medium guide you. I’m not talking about Madam Elaine, Psychic to the
Masses, I’m talking about the medium you’re using to tell the story. Are you telling your story verbally or in writing? Are you doing a slide show presentation or blog post? Consider the length of time or space you have to tell the story. Shorten or expand as necessary.
- Say it out loud! One of the easiest and fastest ways to check on how your story sounds is to read it out loud to yourself. Listen to how it sounds. Does it sound too formal? Not formal enough? Is there a sentence that’s hard to understand when you hear it? Is it something that is easy to understand and hit the notes you’re looking to hit? The answers to questions like these will tell you a lot about the writing style you used for the piece (or your writing style in general) and the how others will hear it – even when they read to themselves most of your audience will be hearing their voice saying the words so in a way they are hearing it out loud.
Bonus TIP! Reverse it! If you’re worried that your writing style or speaking style is too formal and you want to work on that, start verbally rather than in writing. This especially works well if you’re telling your life stories. Record yourself telling the story verbally before you start to write. Listen to it carefully. What do you notice about how you tell the story? Is your word choice different than when you write? Are your sentences shorter? Do you use a storytelling voice that is warm and approachable? Keep these things in mind when you start to write and see the difference it can make in the final product!
I would love to hear from you! Drop me a note and let me know what you think of the post and what tips or ideas you have to make storytelling easier!