How to be a compelling Storyteller
By Royden Dias
Since time immemorial, storytelling has been one of the simplest yet artistic sources of entertainment known to man. Though storytelling itself has evolved over time, be it into movies, theatre, advertising and even art, being able to speak out and simply tell a story hasn’t lost its charm.
Having said that, many people find story telling quite challenging and often prefer to remain silent rather than speak out and embarrass themselves by boring their audience, even if that audience is just a handful of friends in the living room.
I too found storytelling to be some complex and mystical art form that was well beyond me but I found that following this little checklist has helped me develop the skill of being a compelling storyteller.
1. The right time and the right place
I found that it’s really important to gauge the situation in which I wanted to tell a story. I need to take a call whether my story fits in at the right time and at the right place. This is as simple as telling a story that either blends in with the current mood or elevates it. It’s also key to at least know a little about the audience, this will help to tailor the story to their liking. For instance, it doesn’t make too much sense telling a creepy ghost story in broad daylight to a bunch of friends who’re laughing and in a playful mood.
2. Hook, line & sinker
Once a decent enough time and place is identified to tell my story, I need to get my audience’s attention for what comes next. This is essentially a “hook” that I need to use to lure my audience into my story. This could be an important yet mysterious dialogue from the story itself, a physical gesture or even a puff of smoke if you’re into theatrics.
All my stories need to have definite structuring. Simply put, every story needs to have a beginning that helps me create the setting, the middle that’s the real meat of my story and obviously an end that wraps the story up and gives the audience something to think about.
It’s now time to get into actually telling my story. Anyone can tell a story really, but a good storyteller describes rather than commentates. This will makes my story more natural and believable, almost like a first-person account. I always like to describe the setting of my story and important elements carefully that paints a fair picture in my audience’s mind. A great and easy way to do this is by giving sensory information related to smell, touch and sound. The more relatable these are, the better the audience connects with me.
5. Bringing in emotion
An emotional connect is key in telling any story. This keeps the audience attentive and invested in the story, making them care for the characters and wanting to know what happens to them. Whether I’m narrating a personal experience or a story about a friend or even one that’s completely made up, I try to make sure the protagonist is well described to be relatable to the audience.
6. What not to say
Though describing details in order to paint a clear picture for the audience is important, it’s not imperative that I have to talk about everything. Things that are redundant, I don’t mention as long as they don’t impact the story in some way. Think about it from the audience’s perspective. If you listened to 5 full minutes about an element in a story that ultimately had no impact to the ending or no meaning at all, wouldn’t you feel a bit robbed of your time?
7. The punch line
Whatever I do, I never give away the end of my story during the beginning or the middle. It’s called the end for a reason. Giving away the end early on will instantly make any audience lose interest. What’s even worse is that the story itself would have been robbed of the epic high that it would have otherwise had at the climax.
Armed with this checklist of sorts, I find myself telling fairly compelling stories that don’t have an audience dosing off. If you too want to be a compelling storyteller, my advice is to start small and to not let mistakes or a disinterested audience discourage you because trust me, that’ll happen a lot in the beginning. Becoming a decent storyteller took time and is a skill I built on experience and honestly, the more stories you try to tell, the better you’ll get at it.