Never Start a Story With the Weather and Other Rules for Better Storytelling
A good storyteller can improve your presentations at work, improve your social skills, and make you more attractive in general. But not all of this is inherent. If you don’t know how to tell stories that engage your audience, these simple Do’s and Don’ts are a good starting point.
New York-based comedian Jeff Simmermon recently shared some general rules of thumb for telling the best stories he has picked up on his path to becoming a professional comedian and storyteller. He even teaches these tips in class and they seem to be of great help to people. Here are some highlights:
- Never start a story with the weather — no one cares about the weather, time of day, smell, etc. — unless these things directly affect what actually happens in the story.
- Start at the beginning of the story and end at the end: Calm down, Tarantino. Don’t mislead your audience by trying to start in the middle of the action. Give your audience a clear start, middle, and end.
- Never use a verb other than “said” for dialogue: don’t say “exclaimed,” “squealed,” or “mumbled,” act it out yourself! Engage people in your story by making them feel like they were there too.
- Never, ever, use Internet language in a verbal context: don’t say hashtag. Don’t do this in your stories, and don’t do it in regular conversation. Use body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions to convey meaning.
- Never use the words “all of a sudden” or “all hell broke out”: it’s just a cliché. Interrupt yourself and instead talk about something that happened suddenly. Expand your description of chaos instead of saying something like “all hell burst out.” Make them history!
As you can see, none of these rules are as difficult to follow, but they can make a huge difference to those who listen to your stories. Your stories will turn from a buzzing holiday of nap to at least an interesting anecdote. Hey, this is a victory! It’s all about telling a clear story, limiting details to what is necessary, describing events instead of relying on clichés, and making a tiny game to bring the characters to life. You can read more about Simmermon’s storytelling rules and see the rest at the link below.