What is good storytelling?

Before anyone can understand the principles of good storytelling, you first must first know the definition of storytelling. The National Storytelling Network defines storytelling as, “the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination.”

As children, one of the very first storytellers that we are introduced in our lives is Dr. Seuss. In my opinion, next to grandmother, he is  the best storyteller! Storytelling is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination. Please read the excerpts below from Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat.

“Then our mother came inThe Cat in the Hat
And she said to us two,
‘Did you have any fun?
Tell me. What did you do?”

And Sally and I did not
know what to say.
Should we tell her
The things that went on
there that day?”

“Well… what would YOU do
If your mother asked you?”

-Quotes from Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat

There are some key ideas in Dr. Seuss’ style that could lead us all to being good storytellers. Let’s take a look at three very important factors in good storytelling:

1. Your reader or audience must be engaged.

Most importantly when telling a story, Dr. Seuss is engaging. When your reader or audience is engaged, they want to know more. Your story can engage audiences/readers through interaction like questions or it can engage your audience by a personal connection to a story about personal experiences. When telling a story, especially in a blog, you should paint a picture for your audience. When they are using their imaginations, they are more likely to stay engaged.

2. Your story shouldn’t be too long that you lose your audience’s attention.

Dr. Seuss’ or Theodor Giesel was once dared to write a children’s short story with 250 words or less using a selection of certain words. He won this dare with a short story that that we now know to be “The Cat in the Hat” which is one of the most popular children’s books to date. In Dr. Seuss’ books he gets to the point quickly and the stories still remain enjoyable and most importantly memorable. William Lee and Rick Patrick, co-creators of Talkingstick, suggest that stories should be kept simple because the brain could get overwhelmed when processing too much information.

3. Be aware of the flow of your story.

Your story must have a beginning and end. The beginning of story is very important because this is where you first capture your readers attention. The end of a story is where you can you can conclude any important points. The core or spine of the story should also flow. All parts of the story should tie together, continuing to create a picture for your reader or audience. If you go astray, so could your reader.

When following the three suggestions above, you are definitely on your way to a good story. Always remember to engage your reader, never have too much information and make sure you story flows. When blogging, it’s also helpful to include pictures and videos to aid your story. Visuals yield memory.


2 thoughts on “What is good storytelling?

  1. Dr Seuss is a great example of engaging storytelling. His messages delight the reader with outrageousness while leaving lasting impressions. The Grinch is as memorable a character as Scrooge, except we know all the words by heart.

  2. Donnita,

    You make several very good points about story telling. Because you don’t talk about them as your thoughts, I am unclear if they are yours or if you are referencing another source. If they are yours, that’s great – just let us know you think these are the important elements. Obviously if they aren’t give us a link reference.

    Speaking of links… there are at least five different places here where you could have made a link that would have enriched this post. Also, I had trouble knowing the an italics means a link (that was my oversight, but I wonder if the theme lets you change it to be more obvious – just a thought). When I went to talkingstick I was absolutely blown away by the content there. It is a very powerful site with information that goes way beyond only story telling. You could have used that information as the core of your post. But even if that didn’t interest you, including it the way you did was not as connected to what you were actually talking about.

    Your set up and outline format is good and makes the post easy to read and to follow. Just would have liked a little more value added and a connection to social media.

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