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How To: Tell A Great Story—5 Storytelling Tips

How do you tell a great story?

Stories exist all around us, helping us make sense of the world we live in. Humans are hard-wired to love stories; they teach us valuable lessons without us having to go through the pain of learning ourselves.

Whether you’re a cinematographer, writer, or animator, your stories don’t have to be grand or cinematic to engage your audience. They can be as simple as a vlog. We’re breaking down five storytelling tips to show you how to tell a great story.

Tip #1: Stories are about conflict

Conflict can be described as easily as the main character not being able to get what they want. There has to be an obstacle or challenge in your character’s way. If not, your character gets what they want right away, and the story ends there.

Romeo & Juliet is a perfect example of conflict. Two families are at war with one another, but their kids fall head over heels in love with each other. The conflict is present throughout every piece of dialogue—both Romeo and Juliet can’t get what they want.

Tip #2: Subjective expectation vs. Objective reality

Robert McKee, author of Story, defines the subjective expectation vs. objective reality as the source of the main character’s conflict. A simple example of this can be the expectation that getting a client is easy, but the reality is that it’s not.

The Matrix is a prime example of McKee’s storytelling principle. Neo, the protagonist, believes the Matrix to be some underground club, a secret government organization, but the harsh reality is that the Matrix is a world where humans are harvested as energy for robots and machines.

Tip #3: Normal, explosion, new normal

Storytelling consultant Kindra Hall breaks down the simple beginning, middle, and end story as normal, explosion, and new normal.

The normal sets the scene; it’s where we are present day. The explosion disrupts the normal world, and the new normal is the setting the characters have adjusted to live in.

Tip #4: Story delaying

Author Frances Glebas of Directing the Story says the key to great storytelling is actually story delaying. Story delaying involves dragging out the story as much as possible while giving the audience meaningful details and asking dramatic questions.

Will the character live to see the end? Will the King forgive his enemy? How does it all end?

Tip #5: Make your story dramatic

Everyone loves a good story, and a story that’s dramatic reels your audience in even further. Exaggerate details, and make your characters feel as if every matter is either life or death.

Think about the last time you had a bad haircut. It was the “end of the world” for you. That’s just one simple tactic to overdramatize your story.

If you’re a vlogger, for example, talk about your expectations in a dramatic way. Tell your audience what your hopes and fears are for this particular event, and fill them in on the reality of what really happened afterward.

Remember, the key to great storytelling relies on conflict.

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