Yesterday an article in the New York Times, How to Tell a Story, caught my attention. I’m always interested in that and thought you may be too.
The article gave me a new way to think about what we tell our students and parents: know the relationship between the writer and the audience, get ideas out fast, play around with the structure, and refine and polish.
We’re using stories more and more in our personal and professional lives. When we tell stories, we can communicate with power.
Humans evolved to tell stories.
Imagine chilling around the fire 10,000 years ago with your tribe, just like you may spend an evening with family and friends around a campfire this summer.
What do you talk about? Probably not English papers on The Grapes of Wrath.
We tell each other stories—some true, some made-up, some in that in-between zone. Through these stories, we communicate our values, struggles, aspirations. We show our humanity and our individuality. We create futures for ourselves, our communities, or our workplaces.
Here’s what we’ve learned by working with thousands of teens as they tell their personal stories: people do something funny when we move from the campfire to the keyboard.
We stress. We freeze up. We imagine all the ways we can fail.
Storytelling in the moment is a natural human trait. Preparing a story—written or spoken—isn’t for most of us.
So, how do you write (or tell) a story like a pro?
You do it by having a structured process to take you from start to finish.
We guide students (and adult clients) through our Write Like a Pro process. It’s similar to what the Times’ article on storytelling lays out, and it’s how most professional writers, storytellers, and communicators work without always realizing it:
- Before anything, writers know their audience, their intention, and themselves. That’s the stable foundation for the rest of their work.
- They focus on ideas, capturing them quickly.
- Then, they play and experiment with their message and with the flow and structure of their story.
- Finally, they focus on language and tone, bringing it all to life.
If you need to communicate powerfully, look to stories.
Whether you’re presenting a proposal to a client, making a toast at a wedding, or writing a college essay, storytelling can be your best friend. This article brought the power and process of storytelling to life. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.
Please, let me know what you think.
If you need help with storytelling—or if you know a high school student gearing up for college essays—contact us today.
Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash