A few days ago, one of our followers requested tips on storytelling, especially how to narrate a story in a way that the readers/audience will understand.
Bear in mind that storytelling is not only useful on writings; even audio and visual messages need a good storytelling. Whether you are telling a story verbally or via visual cues, a good storytelling skill is necessary.
Take TV or YouTube ads, for example. Even if they are told via audio-visual, most of them have good storyline. This is especially important to send a message to the audience that the products the ads are trying to sell are worthy.
If you are wondering where to start, think of a storytelling as another way of reporting something but add some emotions to it to make it more relatable to the audience. Therefore, you first need to figure out what you are trying to tell. What is it that you want other people to know? Define this first as the main idea of your story.
From the main idea, develop the story with 4 Ps:
– People: characters of the story
– Place: the time and location of the story
– Plot: how the story starts and ends
– Purpose: what is the reason behind the storytelling
Let’s take for example the Harry Potter franchise. We have Harry as the protagonist and Voldemort as the antagonist and the others as supporting characters. They are the ‘people’ of the Harry Potter story.
The time and the location of the story are England and Scotland in the 90s, which means the story should present how England and Scotland looked like at that time. Of course, there are Hogwarts and the wizarding world as a fictional element to this story, which were created based on the author’s imagination.
And then there is plot, which begins with the murder of Harry’s parents. The story then tells Harry’s journey to defeat Voldemort and ends with Voldemort’s destruction. Along the way, there are major and minor subplots to keep the readers interested.
The last one is purpose. What is the purpose of the telling of Harry Potter story? Is it good against evil? Is it portraying the reality at the time? Is it for entertainment? Is it trying to send a message?
Once you have the general idea of the story, begin creating the structure by deciding the parts of the story that are important. How we meet the main character, how the other characters are introduced, and what happens to them.
You can use linear plot, which is a plot where events happen in chronological order. However, if you feel confident, you can try using non-linear plot. It will keep the readers/audience curious to figure out the exact timeline of the story.
Now, how do we make a storytelling effective?
1. Keep it simple
It’s good to give enough details to the story, but sometimes the less is the better, especially if there is a constraint on time and resources.
2. Keep it focused
An elaborated story is good as long as it does not stray from the purpose of the storytelling. Back to the Harry Potter example, we are all invested in how Harry will finally win the war against Voldemort, so Uncle Vernon’s family tree won’t really be necessary. Not only it does not add much to the storyline, it could also be distracting.
3. Be relatable
A great story appeals to our emotions: we care about what happens to the characters because we see parts of ourselves in them. We struggle with Harry when he is living with the Dursleys, we can understand how Ron is sometimes jealous of Harry, we are annoyed by Draco Malfoy, and some of us agree with Hermione in her bossiest, nosiest moments.
4. Use concise language
Concise means delivering a message clearly and briefly, only in a few words. Some of the ways to achieve this are reading a lot, expanding your vocabulary, and doing a lot of practice.
I hope you find this article helpful. Feel free to add your most favourite way of telling a story.
P.S.: mine is using a non-linear plot, jumping from one event to another, and preparing a plot twist or even a vague ending.