How to tell a story is to read books on the subject

Storytelling is one of the oldest pastimes. Everyone loves a great story, but it is often difficult to find someone that is good at telling one. The best way to learn how to tell a story is to read books on the subject, such as “How to Tell a Story” by Peter Rubie and Gary Provost, or any other book published by Writers Digest Books. Perhaps the two best books on the subject are, “Anatomy of Story” by John Truby and “Zen and the Art of Writing” by Ray Bradbury.

Stories consist of three parts:

1. The Beginning

2. The Middle

3. The End

Traditionally, this is why stories are broken down into three acts. Dividing your story into three acts will help you understand basic story structure. However, this technique will only work for simple stories. More complex structures are needed for something like a novel or a screenplay.

Choosing a setting depends of the kind of story that is being told, and the desires of the storyteller. For instance, a gothic adventure could take place in Hungary or Transylvania, and could be set in the 15th or 16th century. Arthurian tales would take place in England, in an earlier time period. The setting will have a large affect on the way the story is told.

The characters will often take up a large part of the opening of a story, and this can slow things down considerably. Care should be taken to avoid lengthy character introductions, as it can kill a story before it has begun. One of the marks of an amateur storyteller is to use up a large part of the early story introducing characters.

The beginning will consist of two parts:

The Introduction, and Rising Action.

The Introduction will introduce the characters, the setting, the goal of the story, and the main villain, or antagonist.

Rising Action is the second part of the story, and it will be a set of scenes that get the characters moving in the direction of the story goal.

Often a mentor will be introduced to help the character learn some truth that they will need to accomplish the goal or to give the characters some kind of aid.

Usually there will be some sort of conflict in the early stages of a story as the characters pursue the story. are sentinels that guard some kind of doorway into a deeper level of the story.

In the early stages of a story, the conflict will slowly rise, creating a greater sense of urgency. The stakes should become greater, further motivating the characters. Every storyteller should ask himself, “what’s at stake here?” in every scene.

The middle of the story is the largest part of the story, taking up about 50% of its time. The function of this part is to develop the characters and the conflict.

Tests or challenges will often confront the characters in this section. Each of these small goals could provide an element that is needed to defeat the villain or an object to complete the quest.

Allies are new characters that are introduced to aid the characters in their quest.

New enemies are also introduced in this section of the story, as the plot becomes more complicated.

Act II consists of two parts:

Complications in the story make things more interesting for the characters. Often a major plot twist is introduced here which will force the main character to change, becoming fully committed, strengthening or clarifying his motivation. This will often be a point of no return.

The Crisis is the lowest point in the story, where everything looks hopeless. This will force the characters to make a crucial decision, leading to the climax of the story.

The end of the story (Act III) is where the main villain is finally overcome and the quest is completed.

The final climax of the story is a scene that everything in the story has been pointing towards. It can be a surprise, but is should be a logical progression of the events in the past. Sometimes in a short story, the climax will be the first scene.

The most important parts of a story are the first scene, where the villain and goal are introduced, and the climax.

Story Endings

There are many ways to end a story, but the end of a story will be of two main kinds:

An open ended story is where the quest has been completed, but not everything has been finished, leaving room for the audience to imagine their own ending.

A closed story is where everything has been completed, creating an obvious ending for the audience.

Characters should be presented with some kind of moral choice at the end of a story, which forces them to finally overcome their character flaw.

This will create a fundamental change in the nature of the character.

After the villain is defeated and the character has changed, the story will be over.

How to In Grief and in Joy Telling Your Story

Recently, I attended the funeral of my uncle, though I found myself making excuses for dismissing my obligation to go. When I read his obituary in the newspaper, I didn’t plan to go to the funeral because I hadn’t seen my cousins in about thirty years. I wouldn’t recognize them, nor would they recognize me.

In the end, I decided that I needed to attend. Even though none of my cousins recognized me, just the mention of my name and whose daughter I was brought forth the dawn of recognition and removed all the barriers that time had imposed. We chuckled over the fact that we all had “aged a little bit” and noted the strong family resemblance that couldn’t be denied.

Telling stories is an important part of healing grief. In our Wings¬© grief education series, we strongly emphasize story preparation that gives the griever control of whatever details and emotions he or she is willing to reveal. We all know the feeling of being “surprised” when someone asks blunt questions about our loved one’s death or says something that empties our emotional deposit of tears.

Plan your response to sensitive questions

Your story should answer: “What happened? How did he die?” This can be a short or long answer, whatever is most comfortable for you. It will likely vary depending upon who is asking the question. When death is natural or anticipated, we may find it easier to tell the story. There may be some relief that suffering is over or that the life was well-lived. When a death was sudden or unexpected, the griever may be very emotional about the details. Some people may be curious and pry for more information than you are willing to share, so plan to prevent a defensive reaction to innocent comments that seem insensitive. People sometimes speak without thinking how their remark may sound-and we react.

When our son, Chad died as a result of suicide, I was very sensitive to this social taboo. I shuddered when someone asked me what happened, wishing I didn’t have to answer. When I wasn’t comfortable, I subtly dismissed the question and volunteered “other” information. People usually don’t press for details when you do that. Know what makes you uncomfortable and plan your story so you can minimize touching your emotional reservoir, even if it means not responding to some questions asked or giving very brief details.

Encourage Imagination

Your story should answer: “I remember the time when… ” Everyone feels comfortable over a good chuckle or an adventurous story. Tell humorous accounts of human blunders or reveal stories of risks taken, accomplishments made and forgotten dreams. When you tell your story, find ways to excite the listener’s imagination so that he or she can visualize exactly what you are saying. We live vicariously through the stories of others.

Some of your best stories will come from people who came to pay their respects and share a memory with you. The evening of Chad’s visitation, my husband picked up a photo that was among our son’s belongings from an Army National Guard training in Utah a few months earlier. Chad appeared in the photo with three officers, but we didn’t know the story that went with the photo. When the officers who came to his funeral saw the photo, they finished the amusing story behind the mischievous grin that Chad wore. This story has been an important part of our memories since that day and reminds us that everybody loves a story and the stories of life are priceless.

Your story is a gift

When you tell it, you disclose your love and the soul connection you have with the person who died. Nothing is more sacred or more respected than the memory that lingers. Stories, whether you are telling them or hearing them from someone else are the windows to the heart. The hope that emerges redefines you. You are who you are, partly because of your relationship with the person who died. The stories of a life lived can enrich and bless you, and the lives of those still living.