Have you already told anyone that you are a writer? Congratulations! You’ve come through a vital threshold in your career.
It’s rather strange that people who write often hesitate to call themselves writers. They don’t know what step of the writing ladder gives this right. Is this the first byline in print? Or making your living on writing only?
My strong belief is that when you start writing your thoughts on paper or typing on your PC, you are a writer, no matter how talented or fruitful you may or may not be. Quite often our lives can be put into perspective by the story brought to us by a compelling novel or an intriguing movie. Nonetheless, what captures our attention is not just the storyline itself but how it is presented to us. The same concept applies to those trying to become a paper writer:one can have great writing skills, it all comes down to how it is presented to the reader.
You may write different types of essays, blog posts, or novels. In any case, telling stories can enhance your craft.
The Difference between Writing and Storytelling
Writing involves putting words down on paper in an attractive way that precisely, efficiently, or even artfully presents information. It requires the skills in grammar, word choice, voice, description, dialogue, and pacing.
Storytelling involves portraying the drama of life. A good story is seasoned with thrilling emotions and resonant truth. The following elements relate more to storytelling than writing:
- Narrative point of view.
Three Ways to Develop Storytelling Skills
See the story through from start to finish
To write a good story, look at it from different perspectives. Explore it moving from beginning to end. Watch it from afar to get the whole picture of how all its parts cluster together. Close in to track the cause-and-effect relationships. Make sure everything in the story follows logically.
Cohesion has an important role to play in storytelling. Make the parts align. If there’re questions in the first part, there must be answers in the second part.
Outlining can provide you a valuable service here. It allows a writer to assess the structure of the story and make sure that all the major passages are carefully arranged before you start editing the additional passages. When you consider the entire story, you can see whether your questions are getting right answers.
Look for the story behind the story
Every story has a theme. From this perspective, we can define a story as a statement about life.
Decide on the statement first. It will help you come up with your story idea. This, for its part, will give you a vision of plot and characters. The general outline will appear sooner then you could imagine.
With this knowledge in mind, start making your narration clearer. Remove the irrelevant pieces or the plot branches that dead ends. Focus on writing a story that elaborates on the theme in the most powerful way.
Study storytelling theory
Every craft requires learning some theory before embarking on practice. You should perfect the above-listed subjects (theme, plot, character, etc.).
Stories are the fruit of the human psyche. Mastering its conscious concepts is a pursuit of psychology. It helps us discover the life itself. Being a diligent student precedes becoming a brilliant storyteller.
Whether you write academic essays, short stories, or novels, storytelling is the essence of your work. You should practice it every day, opening up your mind to better stories. I share the exercises I find the most effective for this purpose.
Five exercises to develop storytelling skills
Use writing prompts
Give yourself a challenging task. Google for a story prompt and set a reminder in 20 minutes.
Creating a story in such a little time may seem impossible. That’s what I thought until I tried. The result exceeded my expectations. Some of the stories were so good that I used them in my writings.
Even if you’ve never written fiction, do this exercise. You will discover your level of productivity. There’s something about the timer that makes me write without the superfluous worries trusting my mental images without a doubt.
I believe that a writer doesn’t have to work ludicrously hard to improve their skills. I like doing something easy and fun and develop as a storyteller at the same time.
Take your favorite song and turn the lyrics into a story. Remake a fairy tale you used to love telling it from the viewpoint of the villain. Such interesting and involving exercises help me keep practicing when I don’t feel like writing. The key here is to choose the piece that really excites you.
Watch good movies
Movies are stories brought to life in a different way and you can learn a lot by watching them right. Do it not only for entertainment or inspiration. Pay attention to how the dialogues are created, the scenes are described, the emotions are shown.
Watching film adaptations of classic novels is even more beneficial. You can analyze how well/bad it is adapted. Think what you like better: a film or a book? What they did in movies you can apply in your writing or vice versa?
Collect old postcards and photos.
Sometimes I take breaks from my usual writing routine and go shopping. I sweep antic stores and flea markets for the pieces of old notes and photos. I also spend some time on eBay where they also cost cheap. I don’t even buy all the photos I like. I just save them to my laptop.
When you read the stranger’s letter try to imagine a story untold. Consider these questions:
Where did the author live?
When did they write it? What time of the day was it?
What’s their relationship to the receiver?
When working with photos block the distractions and focus on the image. What springs to your mind first? Write it down. Answer these questions:
When and where was the photo taken?
Who are these people? What are their relationships? Professions? Social status?
What emotions do their facial expressions convey?
As a big city citizen, I hate the freeway traffic during rush hour. As a writer, I take this time as an opportunity to watch people. Next time you are in a traffic jam, stare at the drivers and their passengers. What are they talking about? Create a dialogue in your mind. Pay attention to their mimic and gestures. Are they having a quarrel? Or are they talking peacefully?
This exercise boosts creativity as well as storytelling skills. When I started practicing it, I only managed to create short dialogues. Now I begin telling myself a story about the person. I give them a name, persona, describe their life situation. I actually create a new character.
Improving storytelling skillset means that you are investing in yourself and your abilities as a writer. As authors, we are responsible for the stories we share with our audience. Regardless of what you’re writing, have fun. Make your story unique. Be interesting and think outside of the box.