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How does one get better at story telling?

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May 14, 2020
99 upvotes

I tend to have good stories to tell, but the problem is i suck at telling them. They always end up super choppy not making sense for some reason. Is there a way to get better at this?


Post Information
Title How does one get better at story telling?
Author Brave-Snow
Upvotes 99
Comments 51
Date 14 May 2020 04:28 PM UTC (9 months ago)
Subreddit askTRP
Link https://theredarchive.com/post/664573
Original Link https://old.reddit.com/r/asktrp/comments/gjpngd/how_does_one_get_better_at_story_telling/
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Comments

[–]Domebeers89 points90 points  (3 children) | Copy

Read good writers, listen to good speakers, etc. There is a basic formula too. I know when I was younger I took a speaking class and an acting class and it helped me out with that tremendously.

Good writer means someone who writes well, which means briefly and concisely. Hemingway. (ie you can talk the way he writes)

Good speakers means people who speak in front of crowds: Comedians. Watch stand up, and observe how they construct a story. Once you get the framework, you can use it for any story you want to tell.

[–]TamirNice11 points12 points  (0 children) | Copy

It's an interesting concept for me because I've always excelled at both, so the idea of not being able to do what I take for granted is foreign.

I spent my childhood in books, but it took the army for me to be able to socialize with people.

[–]TexAs_sWag0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Fantastic advice. And a fun way to learn.

[–]Don_Draper2733 points34 points  (1 child) | Copy

Watching stand up comedy will vastly improve your sense of humor and story telling skills. Just kind of “imitate” what they do and practice.

[–]TRP VanguardHumanSockPuppet17 points18 points  (1 child) | Copy

Read the kinds of stories you want to be able to imitate. Take a stand-up comedy class or improv class. Join your local Toastmasters chapter.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Toastmasters is a great suggestion. You will learn joke telling, public speaking skills and so much more. Plus they are usually great for networking.

[–][deleted] 11 points12 points  (0 children) | Copy

I’ve been told I’m a good story teller, and I enjoy doing it. What I do is really immerse myself in the story and get excitable, read the room and make sure the vibe is right. When a story is worth telling it kinda tells itself.

[–]theunconquored9 points10 points  (4 children) | Copy

I'm always better at writing them out than I am at telling them out loud, at first. Try writing them down. Read them to yourself in the mirror a couple dozen times. Literally read, verbatim. Then start to add voice inflection, ad lib, and energy.

It's a skill that has to be developed.

Toastmasters is awesome and cheap and really helpful in learning to speak well in general.

[–]ReasonablyGoodMexica0 points1 point  (3 children) | Copy

Second the toastmasters. There's also the benefit of the regular conventions where they meet on a nice city to network thoroughly.

Learning expressiveness alone is a good point for them, extra promiscuity is a bonus.

Sadly, with the health thing going around, it's going to be a while before they restart activities.

[–][deleted]  (2 children) | Copy

[deleted]

[–]ReasonablyGoodMexica4 points5 points  (1 child) | Copy

There are a couple of things that come to mind.

The usual meetings are pretty much organized parties that celebrate interpersonal expression. You usually see people being quite candid. Your own club is a good place to run game, albeit not a smart one. But at other clubs you're very welcome and that's where your game can really shine.

The other are the conventions. They are recurrent events with tons of attendants from around the country, for the local ones, and the world, for the big one. Having a high 'rank' is social proof by itself and opens you up for a bunch of goodies: free introductions to business owners, hungry damsels, etc. They are TE 'business trip'. Except that instead of Kevin from sales , it's you she finds there.

Take for example the Region President. Until recently, the region president for Mexico, was pretty much that, region president for the whole mexican territory. I know for a fact that a couple of the past presidents got AT LEAST ten hotel keys from random attendees.

TL;DR Gaming at conventions and other clubs is fun and easy. Don't recommend gaming at your usual club for the same reasons you don't do it at school, work, gym. TM also strengthens your charisma greatly.

[–]NeuroBoss313 points4 points  (0 children) | Copy

By telling stories, but by having them too!

[–][deleted] 17 points18 points  (4 children) | Copy

Practice makes perfect.

[–]TRP VanguardHumanSockPuppet80 points81 points  (3 children) | Copy

No. Practice makes permanent.

Perfect practice makes perfect.

[–][deleted] 24 points25 points  (0 children) | Copy

I never expected to find such a pearl so randomly

[–]KingGerbz2 points3 points  (0 children) | Copy

Ooh I like that. I’ve heard that second part before but not the first part

[–][deleted]  (1 child) | Copy

[deleted]

[–]OneExplorer0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Not to mention, always read the faces of people you’re talking to. Knowing the key chronological points of your story will allow you to move between points to the conclusion if people begin to lose interest. You should be able to neatly wrap your story up at any point in the journey.

[–]1rad_dynamic2 points3 points  (0 children) | Copy

Surround yourself with people telling good stories. Jobs that require lots of writing. All my mates studying English are well good at stories and literally do not ever shut up. It's good to learn from them and I picked up a lot of techniques. But they do get a bit "annoying."

Essentially - imagination is your friend. Paint the picture without actually saying it. The more you say a story to others, the more refined you can make it. Take your time - don't rush.

[–]imstunned2 points3 points  (0 children) | Copy

There is more to good story telling than meets the eye, and there are many good points others have made. I'll repeat some of them and add a bit more.

Note: There is more to it than this, but this should help get you started.

  1. First, understand that practice is key... A practiced story has a far better chance of coming out right than one where you wing it. When you get better, you'll also be able to wing it better. Toastmasters is an excellent opportunity to practice both prepared speeches and impromptu speaking. Club meetings literally do both. Find a club by visiting Toastmasters International

  2. If you're telling good stories in a bad way, then it's generally a matter of editing them to their essence and telling those essentials in the right, understandable, order. Careful word choice. Effective use of alliteration. Avoiding words that people don't generally understand. There are refinements here too: how to grab interest, how to hold interest, and then how to deliver the satisfying punch at the end. That's the basic structure of every good story. It's also the basic structure of every good joke.

  3. It's okay to embellish. If the embellishment adds to making a story more interesting, do it. As long as you're not lying in a way that hurts something, it's not that important. Most people aren't going to fact check every word you said, so don't get too hung up on that.

  4. Eye Contact - Telling a good story gets so much better when you confidently use eye contact. And I mean, solid, exaggerated even, eye contact. Look at this persons eyes while talking as if you're only talking to them, then the break the spell by switching to another person's eyes...as if you're talking to them now. Lean into them while doing so... Think about good story tellers that looked right at you when they were talking. It's very effective. It's uncomfortable at first, but be a little over the top when making eye contact and eventually you will master this.

  5. Body language and vocal variety - good story tellers use these...voices, inflections, volume, facial expressions, arms, hands, everything... In compelling, on purpose ways; not spastic/nervous habit ways. Watch a good story teller or comedian and you'll see that they use these things brilliantly on purpose. They're not accidents. And I assure you they practice. Be a little over the top rather than understated.

  6. Cut out irrelevant crap, and avoid tangents like the plague. These are just opportunities to lose interest.

I'll leave you with a couple of quotes that I have always found interesting:

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” – Dale Carnegie

Understand this, be okay with it, and learn from it. Applies equally to jokes, and impromptu speaking. I also recommend Dale Carnegie classes if you can. Speaking of impromptu speaking...

“It usually takes about three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain

Like every skill, people work hard to make it look easy. Some are more naturally gifted than others, but you'd be surprised how much hard work pays off.

Good luck in your life long journey!

[–]jchrist982 points3 points  (0 children) | Copy

Lift while you are telling the story.

[–]oooKenshiooo3 points4 points  (2 children) | Copy

Storys all follow the same arch (as does most music btw)

Exposition, conflict, climax, solution, takeaway.

Exposition goes like:
So me and my buddy were at a bar the other night.

Conflict:
And in walks this beautiful chick. My buddy and me both want to approach her.

Climax:
Since we both could not figure out which one should get her, we decide to both walk over - may the better man win

Solution:
However, while we arguing, some black dude in had pretty much picked her up in 3 minutes flat.

Takeaway:
That's why I say: Never waste time arguing!

Most people suck at one or more of these stages. They either drag them out to long (provide to much background information, ramble too much, etc.), cut them to short (too little exposition) or they mix up the order.
You can get these fundamentals straight by organizing your favorite stories in that fashion.

[–][deleted]  (1 child) | Copy

[deleted]

[–]pfandflaschenOG1 point2 points  (0 children) | Copy

cuz he picked her up in 3 min

[–]PMA20001 point2 points  (0 children) | Copy

There was someone who posted here about two weeks ago about his dating coach suggested him to watch FRIENDS episodes and to pay attention to the tone the characters spoke on. How it sounded colorful, compared to his black and white tone.

[–]Jessor691 point2 points  (1 child) | Copy

Stand up comedians and writers, try joey diaz stories on yt. Man has the best story telling I know

[–]MagnumBurrito0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Joe Rogan has entered the chat

[–]King_Crimson_0011 point2 points  (2 children) | Copy

Listen to Bert Chrysler - The Machine story. Copy everything.

[–]Endorsed ContributorUEMcGill1 point2 points  (0 children) | Copy

Fuck that bitch, this is Russia.

[–]McLovinReturns0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Read books and watch stand up comedians

[–]RStonePT0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Learn to read, learn to write. Improv classes and practice, open mic nights. getting drunk with friends every weekend shooting the shit.

Writing would be a priority for you. The process of writing is the process of thinking. As you are able to articulate stories better in writing you are better able to structure them when speaking.

[–]misfithustle0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Speak with diction. Sound out your words as you string them together. Speak loud and keep eye contact.

[–]fretty5550 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

I find it's more so how you tell the story / speak if your tone is simply super exciting and positive etc the story won't even really matter just the energy. Also take it slow, take the time to develop your stories / thoughts in your head and make it articulate it'll keep people reeling and make you more interesting

[–]mravek0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Listen and watch comedians on you tube, you can mimic their movements and vocabulary.

I also sucked at story telling, it got better when I started repeating jokes to different friends groups, the jokes were better every time. My story telling really got buffed once I started watching a few episodes of The Fresh Prince from time to time also.

[–]OfficerWade0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Have a story to tell and not some buddy, buddy shit

[–]farikogrim0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Listen to people who are really good at telling stories. I isually listen to comedians

[–]Modifeed59590 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Everytime you go out pay attention to the details ask your self questions. How did that happen? That seems out of place? You can start adding to your own story by adding details you observe along your routine. I went to the gym today vs I saw an interesting thing on my way to the gym.. Every story has a bridge to another story, it can be another of yours or to someone else’s.

[–]KingGerbz0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

I’m trying to improve this skill as well. Something I heard that helped me was to tell the story in present tense even tho you and the audience know it’s in past tense

[–]bonersNlaughs0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

I've heard the book of genesis flood/ Jonestown flood analogue and can you read anypart of the bible without going all dick dawking? Do you like stories youu can relate with as much as youu wan't people to give a shit about whatever anecdote you wanna share?

[–]mrrooftops0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Age and wisdom. Then your authenticity and experience play through the nuances of the narrative. Young inexperienced storytelling is full of naive exaggeration, forced sentiment and a lot of other parroted cliches and tropes that reveal the inexperienced to the experienced - those who you want to be your peers. Trust me, your stories probably aren't that good to tell... yet.

[–]Endorsed Contributorbalalasaurus0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Make a point to whatever you’re saying. People often stare facts with no sense of progression or conclusion. If you have something you want to say then say it in a way that you want people to listen.

[–]intl_plyrs_clb0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Lots of good advice in the other responses here: practice, listen to people to emulate etc.

Two other things I think that can help are:

Get their attention

Make sure you have people's attention. No matter how great the story if you don't have their attention it will fail to land. You'll see people who are great storytellers do this when they're sharing a story in a group setting. They will make sure they have the audience's full attention. Kevin Hart does this with a simple "Listen" since he's well known and that's enough for him. He won't go on with a story until he has everyone's full attention.

Others utilize the "That reminds me of this one time... oh but yall don't want to be bored with hearing this" which then prompts your audience to say "No, please do tell us".

You'll have to work harder to grab their attention if you're unproven, but once you tell one or two good stories you'll be able to get it easily. Within my social circle I usually start off with "So..." and since I've given them good stuff before, they know that once they hear a "So..." that something good is coming and they snap to attention.

Follow the tried and true story formula

The most basic formula for a story is "Once upon a time X was the norm, but then Y happened, therefore Z occurred and in the end, things were wrapped up (or left hanging) this way".

That's your basic introduction, build-up, climax and resolution. Some people mess this up because they go straight to the climax without any build-up, or they go from the build-up straight to resolution with no real climax.

Try to keep that general stick to a buildup - climax - resolution as our base layout for telling a story. That works for most "I experienced this / This thing happened to me" type of stories for sharing in social settings.

[–]innibinni0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Watching comics will only help you so much since you are working with a much smaller group and the chances of your story getting interrupted is much more likely.

I’d say think about your punchline and how good it is and base the length of your premise on that.

Ive had the problem myself of often having too long a premise for a so and so punchline.

Another problem is not hooking your audience early. If the premise is slow rising your audience will get restless and perhaps quit listening before you get to your punchline and that can hurt, especially if its a good punchline. So hook em early with part of the finish but make sure the punchline gives a twist to that finish.

Hopefully that helps, as Ive indicated Ive had the same problems and these are the problems Im having and some solutions Ive found

[–]mysteryspoN0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Act out ur stories (like whimsy telling them)

[–]Snowboard180 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Use suspense and leave out boring details.

[–]breadtobutter0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Read the book Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks. About how to identify, craft, and tell an oral story effectively across a wide variety of settings. Super insightful, easy read.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDp9hVDL49Y

Another tactic I use is just to create suspense. For example, if I'm telling a story of me falling down, you tell me which one is better.

"So, I was walking down the hallway and then I slipped and fell on my back"

"So, I was walking down the hallway. It was very slippery and I really wasn't all that awake..."

[–]SvenAtLarge0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Stand up comedy.

Also, unless you are a keynote speaker, think of your story as merely a piece of the conversation to prompt the others to respond. Either with questions or their own stories.

This helps avoid the beta pitfall of thinking your story, punchline, etc are the most important thing ever. A common reason stories suck is the punchline is given way too early without enough context or the beta is so impressed with his own joke or story he dwells on it far too long, especially the wrapup/takeaway.

Imagine a child who cannot let go of the same joke and repeats it ad nauseam. I have noticed good story tellers are balanced and to the point.

Unless you are literally Hemmingway the crowd is not nearly as interested in hearing you talk the whole time as they are in following up with their own jokes and stories. Also, consider how you want others to respond to your own. To laugh? To ask follow up questions? Do that when others tell theirs.

[–]send_it_for_the_boys0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Comedy, listen to good speakers that you’re into, good movies etc. you pick things up without even realizing it. I had my friend dying laughing over a really dumb story about not being able to find a bathroom the other day. There’s something in it gradually building it up from the beginning to a big finish.....no pun intended

[–]1InformalCriticism0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Exaggeration and playing fast and loose with the details. Focus on your voice inflection. One rather obvious example of this is a comedian named Bert Kreischer who became famous initially for having a spectacular hand full of stories, but he told them well. Now, he has honed a rather transparent style of comical story telling that can be learned and imitated to an extent simply by absorbing a lot of his content. He has a few Netflix stand-up specials and countless hours of YouTube content where you can sort of watch his brain automatically gravitate toward a perpetual need to entertain and be interesting. Once you get a feel for how that type of brain pattern is working, you can play around with your own style. Maybe you are good at impressions, maybe your sound better when you raise your voice and get excited, maybe you're more of a subtle dead-pan type. It's always better to play to what you like, because what you like about your own stories is probably how you're best telling them.

Choppiness and disjointed storytelling is probably just a sign that you're trying way too hard to remember every detail and give too much information that's irrelevant to what would otherwise be entertaining.

It does take practice - listening to enough professionals tell stories can give you a sense for what is right, but when comedians get together, they really don't let each other get away with being boring, and you'll hear when they bust each others' balls where they are being critical of each other.

[–]coolman3340 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy

Depends on the story you're telling. But if it's serious, horror or something alike, having a moderate pitch and pausing (not excessively but when needed) helps. Your tone should be different depending on the kind of story. If you rush, it won't go well. So don't rush. Take your time. Don't go too slow either.



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