Story Craft

Story Craft @ StoryLab

Why do stories matter?

We all love stories. They have tremendous power in shaping who we are, how we communicate, and how we interact with and understand the world around us.

From the earliest of times, to our most modern movies, stories have been an integral part of human life. Stories have the power to unite, empower, humanize, and inspire us. And yet, as novelist Chimamanda Adichie brilliantly points out, there is “a danger of the single story.” Stories allow us to see and experience the lives and cultures of the world – unconstrained by a specific geographical area.

Stories are how we learn and make sense of the world.

The stories we choose to tell, the words, and the tone, all have an effect on the people creating them and consuming them. Despite modern technology and social media, depression and isolation are growing. Modern storytelling can help bridge that gap. It can also remind us of how we can choose how to tell the story of our lives, that we can choose our character, and live by our values in daily activities.

We all love a good story, but how do we authentically craft one of our own?

Guidelines & Tips: 

  • Identify and integrate a theme.
    • e.g. You’re not alone. What happened to me can also happen to you.
    • More unites us than divides us. Universal themes: safety, loneliness, love, relationships, etc.
  • Make your audience care.  Invoke a sense of wonder and curiosity.
    • What is in it for them? Entertain or enlighten, make it worth their time. Engage emotions.
  • Structure your story—and don’t give it all away too soon!  
    • We are born problem solvers, absence of information draws us in and the promise of finding out what happens propels one to stay to the end. 
    • “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.”  —William Archer
  • Like your character.
  • Use what you know.
    • Capture a truth from your experience of it, authentically express values you personally feel at your core.
  • Ask questions.
    • What would happen if...? Has this ever happened before?
  • Tell the truth, tell your truth, but do not malign others.
    • Change more than the name if necessary: location, year, gender, offence. If you’re writing a true story about something sensitive, you might consider anonymizing those involved.
  • Don’t worry about uniqueness.
    • “There is nothing new under the sun.” It is your story, told your way, that is enough. By the time of Shakespeare, he had written all storylines. So tell your story, and enjoy it.
  • Show what happened. Don’t tell.
    • This also lessens preaching. Think “as the pitter-patter of the November rain rang against the tin roof…” rather than “it was a rainy night”.

Elements and the Arc of a Story

Plot: what happens

Theme: why it happens, why telling the story, the message you want audience or reader to take away.  Runs through well told stories, informs the first sentence to the last.

Classic or Basic Narrative Arc

Beginning: exposition and conflict

Middle: rising action and climax

End: falling action and resolution/denouement