8 Rules of Great Storytelling

“We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” -Jimmy Neil Smith

Telling stories is a very important skill. Whether you want to be an effective public speaker or entertain your friends, it’s very useful to know how to tell a story in a proper way.

After all, most of the conversations we have with each other involve us telling stories to one another, be it gossip or be it learning. Here are a few tricks to make your stories the best they can be.

1. Don’t rush

The first rule is to take your time. Sometimes, the excitement or the nerves can make us go faster, but this detracts from the story. Let your listeners wonder for a minute. Let the suspense build. One of the most important elements in any tale are the pauses you make.

A good idea is to consider the story beforehand – where should you pause for maximum effect? Usually, you will want to make pauses before the climax or when something unexpected happens, so that your audience can take it all in.

2. Enjoy the story

If you are telling a story, there is probably some merit to it. It might be interesting, educational, or important for another reason. So, you should transmit that to the audience. Don’t rush your way through the story – enjoy it beat by beat. Let the story unfold and show how fun each of the parts are.

If you are excited, then your audience will be. If you are bored with your own tale, why should anyone listen to it attentively? Have fun with the story.

3. Highlight the emotions

A story works when it can make the audience feel something. Whether it horrifies them, makes them sad, or gives them joy, the emotions are the key element of a story’s success. Identify the key emotions related to your story and emphasize them to engage your audience.

4. Ask the audience to use their imaginations

When we get to imagine things, we can feel more invested in the story. Ask your audience to picture something in their minds and give them a few details to start. It is a good way of bringing them into your story and getting them hooked.

Give the audience a chance to imagine elements – don’t overload them with descriptions or details.

5. Provide sensory elements

One of the things that help a story feel more solid are the sensory details. Consider how you can bring each of the senses to support your narration. Sight and sound are important, of course, but also the smells, the texture, the internal sensations. All this can make the tale more visceral, memorable, and engaging as well.

6. Relax

If you get nervous, you are more likely to mess up the story. Before you start, take a moment to relax and control your breathing. A few deep breaths can make the difference in how much you rush or forget the details. Take it easy.

7. Practice

Sometimes, you will have to improvise, but if you get the chance, practice beforehand. Tell the story to a family member or even to your pet or to yourself in the mirror. This will help you identify the key points, the pauses, and also ensure you won’t forget an important detail or element.

When you practice, you get to feel a lot more relaxed as you tell the story later.

8. Use your voice and your body

There is nothing worse than a monotonous narration. Even if the story is exciting, you need to modulate your voice, or else your audience is likely to fall asleep. Raise and lower your voice to support your narration.

Also, you can use your body and gestures. Make faces, use your hands, move around. All this can help you tell a more effective tale and keep the audience invested.

Storytelling is a very useful skill that will aid you professionally and also in your personal life. Take the time to learn how to spin a good yarn and apply these 8 rules of great storytelling.

( 20th March is celebrated as World Storytelling Day. Keep spreading your stories.)