The Art of Storytelling
I’ve always been a writer. Always. Even before I was published, I used to write all the time. And when I’m not writing for fun, I work as a professional copywriter. Words are my life and I’d be lost without them.
But last year I began using words in a different way. Rather than writing them down, I started using my voice.
It kicked off when I got invited to a StoryTelling Corner in Leamington Spa. I’d presented many times in a professional capacity and I was no stranger to the stage, but reading out fiction that you’ve put together yourself - knowing you’re going to get direct feedback - is nerve-racking.
I chose to go back to the start and tell the story of my first book, Bird. I described how it came about, and then I did a short reading from it. I didn’t want to just read, I wanted to tell my story. It was a storytelling event after all.
To my surprise, I actually think I got a better reaction from the story of how I came to write the book than the actual reading itself. I suppose anyone could read the story at any time, but insight into a writer’s mind is something you don’t always get. Especially when I do have a very unusual imagination. I definitely concern my husband at times!
This experience got me hooked and I’ve done several similar events since. And with each one I’ve learnt so much about storytelling. It’s more than just reading from the novel that you spent months putting together. You need to be able to captivate the audience so they’re hanging on your every word. You need to use your voice as much as your language.
The biggest surprise of all, though, came when I went to a slightly different event. It was at a business networking meeting and for the first time ever I decided to tell a very personal story about a dreadful thing that happened to me. There were lessons I’d learned and a message I wanted to convey, and I thought making it personal would be more impactful.
I’d never spoken about anything so personal to a room full of people before, and I was nervous about the response. But the response I got was incredible, and totally unexpected. People were very moved by the content, but most of all people told me they felt drawn into what I'd been talking about. ‘You can tell you’re a storyteller,’ someone had said, to which everyone in the room agreed.
I thought back over what I’d said and I realised that I hadn’t just relayed a terrible event, I’d walked them through each moment of it. I’d done the old "show not tell" and it had really worked. I hadn’t consciously done it, it was just the only way I knew. But the impact was massive.
Everyone has a story to tell. We have lives packed full of them. But if you really want to tell that story, then make sure you show it. Set the scene, build the characters and draw your audience in. Even if it’s real life, use your words to show them what happened, and use your voice to dramatise it.
If you have something to say, then surely you want people to listen to it. You’ll only achieve that if you say it in the right way and demand their attention. Don’t waste any opportunity. Go for it!