3 Unusual Ways to Become a Better Storyteller

3 Unusual Ways to Become a Better Storyteller

Storytelling is one of the most useful skills in today’s world.
You don’t have to be a drunk fuddy-duddy snoring in the recliner, starting with…
“When I was your age, I already had two kids and used to….zzzzzzzz.”

Nope.

Whether you’re pitching yourself and your idea, marketing a service or writing a sci-fi book with war hipsters, storytelling is THE skill to sell. But how to learn it the best way?

Countless books have been written, countless samey samey advice has been tossed out.

Let me enrich your arsenal with my personal storytelling tips…

Let’s start with a tip that’s actually an anti-tip…

1) Don’t read books.

They are the worst examples of storytelling. Just look at the most popular genre works. Dune is THE science-fiction classic
and reads like some spoiled prince tripping on LSD. “Fear is the mind killer. The spice must flow. Let’s ride the sandworm. Harkonnen! Atreides! Fedaykin!
Shipadeepadooo!”

I mean, just look at the first sentence of the book:
“In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.”

It’s like Mr. Purple Prose makes love to Missus Meandering!
Now stretch that jabber to 900 pages and you have gluten-free Prozac.

Today’s classics aren’t better sources of storytelling.

The ever-popular Game of Thrones is based on George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, and they’re a prime example of how NOT to tell a story.
GRRM manages to write 1000s of pages with characters that go nowhere. And when he’s clueless about finishing a character’s ark, he comes up with a new one or pops in a magical tree of life, because, GRRM. The TV series has to cut out hundreds of pages because GRRM is blowing hard on the blah blah lane.

Don’t get me wrong. Reading books is great for improving your writing style. If you want to learn better ways to express yourself,
or assimilate an author’s prose you dig, reading is great. But when it comes to telling a compelling story, an average Hollywood flick with the typical 3 act story structure teaches you more than a genre classic.

2) Drop the notebook and verbalize the mundane.

You’ve heard it till you’re ready to punch a pig in the face:
Always carry a notebook around.
Sounds like golden advice for designers, makers and writers, but it’s useless in practice. Let’s be honest. You’re too lazy to carry that bulky thing around. And secondly, when you’re outside with friends or family, scribbling in your notebook makes you look like an asocial reclusive.

So what to do instead?

Let’s start with a little discovery.
Bad news: you talk a lot of rubbish. Good news: you can learn to un-torture your listeners.
Everything mundane that you talk about can be turned into a story. Whether you’re at a shop getting drinks, shopping in ze mall or chit-chatting with your loved ones, everything story-fiable:

“This one day at the BBQ, I put my Wiener sausages on the grill and caught the attention of a car-sized Doberman. You won’t believe what happened next…”

Heck, one day, my mom was calling customer support from a communications giant because those suckers sold her
demented mother an overpriced internet flatrate (grandma can’t tie her shoes. She surely can’t surf the Googles.)

You know how mother started the talk?

“My mother’s demented. She can’t cook noodles and locks herself out. Why do you sell a flatrate to a woman
who can’t spell her name?”

Boom. Storyteller gold right there.

You can turn EVERYTHING into story practice. Even petty customer calls.

3) Use Social Media as your editor.

You’re addicted to Facebook and Twitter and whine about wasting your time. Stop the wee-wee. Don’t get those apps that deny online access for a limited time. Revel in your addiction and use it to train your storytelling muscles.

Remember what I said about books meandering? Well, social media FORCES you to be concise. Twitter’s 140 characters limit make for hyper-compressed storytelling. If you can create story in 140 characters, you can create a long-story. Here are some of my favorite Twitter short stories. Learn from them:

Last year, I asked Santa for the sexiest person ever for Christmas…I woke up in a box

Somewhere in a multi-cultural household, hebrew tea and Urdu washing.

Time machine jokes aren’t funny, you guys. My grandson dies in a time machine crash.

Legendary storyteller Hemingway created the best story tweet before Twitter was even invented:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

33 characters and you have a story with emotional pull.
Boom! Learn it.

Conclusion

Storytelling should really be called Storyselling. It’s an essential tool to survive (and thrive!) in a capitalist world.

What’s your best, unusual, story tip?

I wanna learn from you.

If you find this post useful, share it with the folks in your network.

  • http://www.elizabethjootto.com Elizabeth Jo Otto

    Awesome insight! Really like the Tweetable story!

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Cool, me too. They prove how much you can tell with few words. I try to incorporate that into everything I write!

  • http://www.mcbreenmedia.com/ Craig McBreen

    Hey Mars,

    “It’s like Mr. Purple Prose makes love to Missus Meandering!

    Now stretch that jabber to 900 pages and you have gluten-free Prozac.”

    LOVE it ;)

    Funny you wrote about George RR because I just finished a post and will publish soon… about Game of Thrones and how neatly packaged the show is vs the books.

    And I agree with #1. Please read as many books as you can though ;) but I think movies and especially the great TV available at the moment, gives you brilliant material for story.

    I like to listen to podcasts like the TED Radio Hour and turn segments into blog posts.

    Cheers, Sir Mars

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      I’m reading TONS of books, mostly to increase my knowledge and to copy styles. But you’re right–American TV is the best storytelling currently available. No book or Hollywood flick can compete with premium serials–have you watched DareDevil? Amazing.

      PS-I also luv listening to RadioLab, because it’s one of the finest non-fiction storytelling up to date.

      • http://www.mcbreenmedia.com/ Craig McBreen

        House of Cards and Daredevil are reason enough for me to get Netflix ;)

        Yes! RadioLab is a good one. Haven’t listened in a while though.

  • http://www.5toolgroup.com/ Jay Oza

    Books are boring and time consuming. That old man Socrates knew what he was talking about regarding reading.

  • Jacob Kilgore

    Good discussion. I find reading has great benefits, but consuming those benefits through your ears (listening to audiobooks) rather than your eyes allows you to get on with whatever you would do normally and still take it in. Heck–I think I take it in better because I don’t get all sleepy, lose my focus, get a kink in my neck and take 20 times as long to get through the story.

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