How to Tell a Great Story in 8 Steps
Great stories follow a specific structure. The following guideline will help you regale people with your tale for 20 second or five minutes. In fact, some stories are just multiple 20 second stories strung together. Keep in mind, stories can still be entertaining with only some of the following parts. Let’s take a look at the following structure:
- Setup: Signal to others that you’d like to tell a story. Gain attention.
- Set the Scene: Describe the situation or circumstances. This is the best place to shorten or lengthen your story, depending on time and audience interest.
- Normify: Quickly set the story down a normal path.
- Turning-Point: Describe the climax, crux, or pivotal moment in the story where it goes off the expected path.
- Details: Details should be relevant to the story and audience, and be sprinkled throughout.
- Reaction: Yours or someone else’s reaction to any turning-points or key actions in the story.
- Conclusion: Describe how it ended. Was anything changed or impacted?
- Post Comment: State your thoughts after the fact. What do you think now that you can look back at it?
Take a look at the “uncooked” version of a story, told in a raw form, stripped of most story elements:
“Lisa brought in peaches last year. I ate one that had a worm in it.”
What a waste of a good story! Although it was succinct, the story could be better. Always remember, storytelling isn’t only about reciting facts and events. It’s about communicating fun and human interest details concerning the event. Don’t be afraid to exaggerate a little for fun. People enjoy suspending their disbelief when it comes to stories and entertainment.
Now look at the above story re-told in a more interesting way:
“Remember when Lisa brought in that bucket of peaches? We were all sitting there doing work, when she asked if we wanted to try some fresh peaches. I thought I was actually going to get to eat something healthy that day; then I took a bite. Something didn’t taste right. I think I saw three white worms crawling around inside! I felt like vomiting – I had to run to the bathroom! I’m sure I ate part of one! It still gives me the creeps to this day. I can’t even look at a peach anymore.”
The entire story required about 20 seconds. But that 20 seconds delivered an exceptional piece of conversation. Let’s revisit the story structures:
- Setup: “Remember when Lisa brought in that bucket of peaches?”
- Set the Scene: “We were all sitting there doing work, when she asked if we wanted to try some fresh peaches.”
- Normify: “I thought I was actually going to get to eat something healthy that day.”
- Turning-Point: “Then I took a bite. Something didn’t taste right.”
- Details: “I think I saw three white worms crawling around inside!”
- Reaction: “I felt like vomiting – I had to run to the bathroom!”
- Conclusion: “I’m sure I ate part of one.”
- Post Comment: “It still gives me creeps to this day. I can’t even look at a peach anymore.”
If you struggle with storytelling, don’t worry, you’re in good company! Start with practicing a few of the eight story elements until you become comfortable with them. Setting the scene, the turning point, your reaction, and a post comment are the key elements to focus on first.