Storytelling tips

Jack Kerouac

There is something different about us at the end of a story. (Photo credit: Squirmelia)

According to Ira Glass, producer of the radio show This American Life, and a master of modern storytelling, a story only has only two parts:

  1. anecdotes
  2. moments of reflection

Anecdotes and moments of reflection can be mixed together in a variety of ways to tell a compelling story.

The sequence of events in an anecdote holds our interest while the moment of reflection tells us what it all means. A story let’s us experience what it is like to be someone else, to see what they see and feel what they feel. It causes us to experience a change inside.

We wait in suspense to find out how the story ends and to get answers to the questions that arise as the story unfolds. The events in the story paint a picture that makes us feel something and then the moment of reflection helps us crystalize that experience, understand it, and feel it in a new way. Here are some meanings that often show up in stories people like to hear.

1.    Life is short
2.    Dreams come true
3.    Believe in something bigger
4.    You matter
5.    We’ve forgotten the basics
6.    Never, never, never give up
7.    There’s only one you
8.    There’s more to life
9.    You don’t know how right you are
10.    Our assumptions were wrong
11.    Sometimes the little guy beats the big guy

Story telling can use a number of formats:

1.    A fresh point of view about common things (This American Life)
2.    Edutainment (How Stuff Works/Myth Busters/Prototype This)
3.    A journey (Jack Kerouac)
4.    An epic adventure (mono-myth)
5.    A mystery
6.    A romance

Some emotional devices that make a story more effective:
1.    An unexpected twist
2.    An inspiring call to action
3.    Suspense
4.    Humor
5.    Tears
6.    Smiles
7.    A secret revealed

How could you use anecdotes and moments of reflection to tell your stories in a more compelling way?