Below you’ll find storytelling do’s and don’ts by Theo Michelfeld, a writer whom I greatly admire. What’s one concept that will help you tell a better story? Theo will examine the movie Prometheus from a story-telling perspective later this week.
Creativity often involves breaking the rules, so none of the following guidelines are set in stone. However, if you’re having trouble with a storytelling project, keep in mind the following do’s and don’ts.
Do… understand the themes expressed in your story, and let your characters reflect those themes through their dialogue and behavior.
Do… consider the forces at work in your story (characters, institutions, Mother Nature, the passage of time) and convey those forces in such a way that your audience feels their effect.
Do… know the ending of your story, and construct the plot so that the ending is the inevitable result of what has come before.
Don’t… waste your audience’s time by asking them to follow events that have no bearing on the story’s plot or meaning.
Don’t… let your story lose momentum. Even the characters’ “downtime” should be informed by the state of affairs established in your plot.
Don’t… put all your chips on the dialogue. Everyone loves great dialogue, but to keep the audience fully engaged you will also need an efficient and coherent plot.
A final point: People may tell you that your story is too personal, or not personal enough; too outlandish or too bogged down in realism; too dark or too sentimental; and so on. This is hogwash. A story need only be compelling, and if you follow the guidelines above, you can give any story a chance to command the audience’s attention.
Stories are everywhere and influence us all in deep ways. One of the key concepts of Quixote Consulting’s Influence: The Power of Persuasion training is the power of the story to influence yourself and the people who matter to you. Storytelling in business (and all of life) happens every moment of the day. We tell ourselves stories all the time – it’s how we make sense of the world. By telling a new story, we can change the story that people tell themselves. When you’re trying to influence for a mutually better outcome, what is the quality of the story you tell?