Author Stuff, Life & Stuff, Writing Tips

How to Be a Better Storyteller

All writers are storytellers. Whether you are writing a novel or a blog post, you are essentially telling a story. But how do you become a better storyteller? How do you ensure that your narrative and characters aren’t dry and boring? How do you make it all feel real whether it is a non-fiction or fictional text? Well, here’s a few ways I think we can become better storytellers:

Research

  • Look things up! Don’t guess or assume, get the real facts and figures even if you don’t end up using them
  • Someone mentions something you don’t know anything about, google it! You never know when that knowledge may come in handy
  • If you know you’re writing about something that you yourself haven’t experienced first-hand, find that information instead. Writing about a different era? Go to a museum or get some books from the library – don’t assume and ruin the realism of the book

Read

  • Duh…to tell stories, you need to read stories
  • Read widely, expand your knowledge, as well as the number of stories you know to enrich your own
  • What works and what doesn’t? Why? Note pacing, character arcs, show-don’t-tell methods, dialogue etc.

Watch

  • Watch people; people watching is an important tool for any writer’s arsenal
  • Watch screen characters; scripts are a great way to see how dialogue and movement work in a narrative

Study

  • Always be learning, but also go over what you learn and notice in everyday life
  • Analyse your findings, what do they mean?
  • Narratives are often familiar, and this is crucial to a reader’s understanding. Breaking narrative rules can be good, but only when done well and whilst still appreciating the art of storytelling, so study this art beforehand
  • Study stories, don’t just consume them (films, TV, books, blogs, conversations…)

Converse

  • Your dialogue will be better and more realistic if you have conversations or really listen to conversations and pick up on how people actually speak and move when talking
  • Plus, people often talk about things we don’t experience for ourselves so train that listening ear

Witness

  • Immerse yourself in situations that occur in your books, and witness what actually transpires
  • In your book, a character is under the sea? Great, go scuba diving or snorkelling or at least to the sea life centre to see what under the sea is actually like

Ask

  • Ask people questions: how was your childhood, where are you from, what was losing your partner like, what did you do before this, etc.
  • Asking questions of real people helps you to know what your characters would do when going through the same circumstances. Don’t assume you know; find out for real
  • Use social media to ask questions and get rich data to spur on your ideas

Practice

  • A good storyteller tells stories often; they don’t just write one and gain that title
  • Work with writing prompts, do writing sprints and writing exercises; flex those storytelling muscles by practising often

Rewrite

  • Don’t be afraid to rewrite a scene; sometimes if it’s not feeling great, it isn’t enough to edit parts – bite the bullet and just rewrite it all together with what you now know

Experiment

  • Try out new narrative structures, choose less obvious character arcs and relationships, try out unknown settings and just see what happens – even if they fail, it often teaches us something to use later on

A quick few more: 

  • Avoid cliches, or use them well
  • Read scripts to understand dialogue better
  • Take classes and courses – there’s always more to learn!
  • Explore the unknown; be curious
  • Try things for yourself before putting it in the story
  • Use history, philosophy, psychology, science, mythology (etc.) to aid in depth and understanding
  • Misdirection is cool; use those twists with prowess
  • Toy with the absurd

This was a short list, but those are my methods for enriching your storytelling abilities (mostly as novelists). If you have any other ways that you think storytelling can be made better, please leave your comments below!

Happy storytelling, fellow writers!

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