Rules for storytellers

posted February 27, 2015 at 12:00 am
by  The Standard
Whether you’re a writer, a journalist, a marketer or an advertiser, the story is king. People forget facts, but they never forget a great story.

The good news is that everyone is a storyteller. It’s just a matter of doing it well. What’s the secret to telling a great story?  Step out from the background, get ahead of the numbers, and put a name, face, and some personality behind your effort and you will see increased engagement. Harness the power of the personal.  Here are a few more from The Dragonfly Effect blog.


Stories are about people. People connect with other people, so make sure you focus your story on the real-life characters of your story.  Even if your organization (a) is devoted to saving flora and/or fauna, (b) toils in the dense thicket of policy change, or (c) helps other organizations work more effectively, human beings are still driving the action.  So focus on the people involved.  People are what serve as the audience’s guide through the story, and what an audience will connect with.

Stories  are about stirring up emotions.  Human beings are not inclined to think about things they don’t care about.  Good stories stir emotions not to be manipulative, nor simply for melodramatic effect, but to break through the white noise of information that continuously inundates us and to deliver the message: this is worth your attention.

Audiences bore easily. Everyone talks about engagement and involvement, but what does it really mean? It’s about getting them to tune in, not out. And in these days of shortened attention spans and shallow interest levels, this becomes more crucial. In telling a story, make them wonder “what happens next?” or “how is this going to turn out?”  As the people in your story pursue their goal, they must run into obstacles, surprises, or something that makes the audience sit up and take notice.

Stories don’t tell: they show. Show don’t tell is the most fundamental maxim of storytelling, and for good reason.  Your audience should see a picture, feel the conflict, and become more involved with the story – not just be receptacles for a long list of facts.

Stories have at least one “moment of truth.” The best stories show us something about how we should treat ourselves, others, or the world around us.  Call it an “Aha” moment – that point when your story conveys a message that really makes your audience say, “Yes! That’s a powerful idea.”

Stories have a clear meaning. When the final line is spoken, your audience should know exactly why they took this journey with you.  In the end, this may be the most important rule of all.  If your audience can’t answer the question, “What was the story all about?” it won’t matter if you followed rules one through six.

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