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12 Expert Insights Into How to Tell a Better Story

Updated on March 22, 2017
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Sadie Holloway is a writer and artist who uses the power of journaling to bring more peace, serenity, and joy into her life.

Writing and telling a story is easier to do than most people realize.

Follow these simple tips and suggestions from master writers and storytellers that can help make your next piece of writing a one-of-a-kind crowd pleaser worthy of a standing ovation!

Have you ever considered turning your personal story into a play, a film, or a piece of music?
Have you ever considered turning your personal story into a play, a film, or a piece of music?

First, let’s start with the basics of crafting a compelling non-fiction story or speech.

Write your story down. Start writing your story by drafting an outline. Identify the main points you want to make and list them in order of their importance, either from most important to least important, or vice versa. Don't forget to include a space at the top of your outline for your introduction and a space at the bottom for your conclusion.

The bones of an effective and memorable non-fiction story or speech are quite simple:

1. Tell the audience what you are going to tell them (the introduction).

2. Tell the audience what you need to tell them (the body of your speech).

3. Then, tell the audience what you just told them (the conclusion).

Beside each item on your outline, make a note of how much time you have to devote to each point. Once you have this outline in place, start writing your first draft. Then time how long it takes you to simply read your speech. Are you within your allotted time allowance? Are you speaking too fast? Or is your speech too long? Keep practicing your speech and editing it until you are confident that you have covered all of your main points in a concise and compelling fashion.

Now you are ready to start adding some depth to your non-fiction story. Here's what some of the world's best speakers and writers have to say about being a good storyteller.

1. Add a touch of humor to your story.

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.

— Francis Bacon

Once you are confident that your speech has covered all of the basic points that you want to make, you can start thinking about how to inject some personality into your presentation. People love to be entertained while being educated, even on the most serious of topics. When done thoughtfully, a little bit of gentle humor from the heart can make your speech sound much more authentic and sincere.

When telling a story, whether in front of a crowd or in the pages of a magazine, humor is one of the quickest ways to reach your audience and draw them in. Remember, humor is what makes you human.
When telling a story, whether in front of a crowd or in the pages of a magazine, humor is one of the quickest ways to reach your audience and draw them in. Remember, humor is what makes you human.

2. Freewriting: Stop thinking about it and just do it!


Freewriting makes writing easier by helping you with the root psychological or existential difficulty in writing: finding words in your head and putting them down on a blank piece of paper.

— Peter Elbow, Writing with Power

3. Practice what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Whether your story is going to be read off the page or delivered orally in front of an audience, practice reading your story out loud. When you 'hear' your own story, you will start to notice details that don;t always emerge when read silently in your head. For example, it is easier to catch a run-on sentence when you are reading it aloud and you find yourself practically out of breathe by the time you get to the end.

There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.

— Dale Carnegie

Once your speech is complete and you've practiced it well in advance of your presentation, it's time to focus your energy on any last minute jitters or nervousness you may be feeling. After all, you've spent a good deal of time writing your speech; you don't want t blow your moment in the spotlight by stumbling over your words or forgetting your key points.

4. Great storytelling is born of the truth.

Fiction is based on reality unless you're a fairy tale artist. You have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you're writing about before you alter it.

— Hunter S. Thompson

5. Writing doesn’t have to be complicated in order to be effective.

Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence. It never fails. Rocks explode. Jane transmits. Mountains float. These are all perfect sentences. Many such thoughts make little rational sense, but even the stranger ones (Plums deify!) have a kind of poetic weight that’s nice. The simplicity of noun-verb construction is useful—at the very least it can provide a safety net for your writing.

— Stephen King, On Writing

6. Keep writing, even when you’re having a bad writing day.

I hate writing, but I love having written.

— Dorothy Parker

7. Your life’s story is your best story.

The road to authentic art is through the self. More specifically, it lies through the heart, not the head. Your loves, your hates, your scars, glories, fears, losses, triumphs—your heart is the heart of the matter. Heart is where the art is.

— Julia Cameron, The Vein of Gold

8. Stop trying to make sense all the time.

The chief enemy of creativity is 'good' sense.

— Pablo Picasso

9. Good writers don’t go it alone. They do plenty of research before they begin writing.

A man will turn over half a library to make one book.

— Samuel Johnson

10. Successful writers are creative, but they’re also highly disciplined.

Imaginative writing has its source in dream, risk, mystery, and play. But if you are to be a good—and perhaps even a professional—writer, you will need discipline, care, and ultimately even an obsessive perfectionism.

— Janet Burroway, Imaginative Writing: The Element of Craft

11. Successful storytellers are attentive listeners.

They spend as much time in the audience as they do up on stage.

Storytellers approach influence as a reciprocal process that flows both ways. To be a good storyteller you must be a good listener. I’ve never met a good storyteller who wasn’t equally good at listening to stories.

— Annette Simmons, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins

12. Successful writers know that they can’t isolate themselves in their craft.

They take inspiration from the close, intimate bonds they forge with others.

A good writer possesses not only his own spirit but also the spirit of his friends.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

© 2017 Sadie Holloway

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  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 5 months ago from Nashville Tn.

    Youv'e hit on some important points for writing. Discipline works well for me. And I like "keep writing even when you're having a bad writing day. Thanks for the advice,