The Art of Storytelling

15 Aug

“The best way we as storytellers can move an audience, is by being honest and genuine with ourselves. If it doesn’t move us or excite us personally, how can we expect an audience to feel anything?”

Ken Burns, Film Producer

So I was watching a show on PBS the other night about Burns.  I highly respect him, and the show was fascinating.  Rarely have I seen any producer/director of any documentary tell a story as well as Burns has done in the past with his films, from The Civil War to The Roosevelts to Our National Parks.

He was saying during this show that he believes history should not be delivered as a set of facts in so much as it should be delivered as a narrative, because people make history, and it is through the words of the people who made history that we gain a real appreciation for history.  He went on to say that the really great storytellers never forget that we all share feelings, and tapping into those feelings is what makes a mediocre story a great story.

I believe that.  I’ve said it often in this blog.  The great authors I have read are the ones who have found a way to deliver the story in such a way that I actually care about the characters, and I feel what the characters are feeling.  This is a crucial point, so write it down, if you have to, and always refer to it.

Whether you write fiction or just a blog, it is all-important that you find a way to connect with your readers, and the best way to do that is on a personal level. A friend of mine, Linda, writes a blog about food.  She always includes a personal story in each blog posting, something which will reach her readers on a basic molecular level, and because she does that, her articles are always interesting, even to me and I’m strictly a mac-n-cheese sort of guy.

Who are you writing for?  If it’s just for yourself, good luck with that. I have nothing else to say to you.  But if you are writing for an audience, and it is important to you that you reach them, then I guaran-damn-tee it you will reach them if you remember that they are human beings who feel the same things you feel.  Your storytelling must always remember that.

Writers are storytellers.

Be the best storyteller you can be.  Don’t go through the motions and vomit mediocrity.  That’s an insult to all who came before you, and it’s a turn-off for all those who follow you.


I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  Growing up, our next-door neighbors were a lovely old couple. I have no idea how old they were, but I do know that, as children, they both came to Washington on the Oregon Trail by covered wagon.  I still remember many an afternoon when they would serve their six-year-old neighbor (me) chocolate chip cookies and tell him about crossing the country in a wagon.  It was absolutely fascinating, so fascinating that I still remember those stories sixty years later.

And I remember the stories of Alaska my Uncle Jim told me, about dredging in harbors with the temperatures so cold his breath would freeze upon exhaling, and grizzly bears walking down Main Street in Ketchikan, and I remember the stories my Uncle Mike told of being attacked on the USS Iwo Jima during World War 2, and stories of my mother working as a welder in the naval shipyards during that war . . . and stories . . . well, you get the point.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

26 Responses to “The Art of Storytelling”

  1. Janine Huldie August 15, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

    Love this, Bill and try very hard to relate to my readers, was much as possible, too. So thank you for shedding light on this today. Now, wishing you a wonderful Tuesday ahead!! 🙂

    • Billybuc August 15, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

      Thank you Janine! Your blog is a hard one to use as an example of this, but as much as possible you do a good job of relating….sharing products is a tough one…..anyway, Happy Tuesday my friend.

  2. froggy213 August 15, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    Amen to that Bill. Now I’m off to tell a story…

  3. 1authorcygnetbrown August 15, 2017 at 10:08 pm #

    When it comes to me, you know this post is speaking to the choir!

    • Billybuc August 15, 2017 at 11:42 pm #

      I do indeed, Donna, but I appreciate you visiting nonetheless.

  4. Sageleaf August 15, 2017 at 11:25 pm #

    You’re onto something with the storytelling. 🙂 I read a book not too long ago called, “Talk Like Ted.” It goes all into the art of storytelling to captivate an audience. You’re absolutely right: you must capture the audience if you’re ever to have any hope of moving forward with your writing. I’ve been writing a lot of flash fiction lately and capturing the story at its most interesting point is a challenge. But I really feel like it’s helping with non-fiction, too. 🙂
    Sending you hugs, my wise friend! Have a wonderful week!

    • Billybuc August 15, 2017 at 11:43 pm #

      Thanks Lil Sis! I actually consider flash fiction one of the most challenging genres out there. Telling a whole story in so few words is tough at the very least. Anyway, thanks for the hug. They are always welcomed.

  5. Lawrence Hebb August 15, 2017 at 11:27 pm #

    I totally agree! We writers are storytellers. The other week I went to see the Movie ‘Dunkirk’. It’s one of the few movies I’ve seen that lets the real events actually tell the story!
    I had a grandfather on the beach at Dunkirk, and an uncle patrolling the skies, neither ever told us much about it, and we’re so much the poorer for it.
    The movie is powerful for the story told.
    Great stories need to be told!

    • Billybuc August 15, 2017 at 11:44 pm #

      Lawrence, so many soldiers, for a variety of reasons, never told their stories and I agree with you, we are poorer because of it. Thank you sir!

  6. Mike August 15, 2017 at 11:38 pm #

    Hello Bill – I agree, there is no point writing a story so bland that your reader is not picked up and carried someplace they have not been before.

    • Billybuc August 15, 2017 at 11:45 pm #

      Of course you agree, Mike! You are a master storyteller.

  7. Manatita August 16, 2017 at 2:08 am #

    Yes Bill.

    Linda writes very well. She is also a most wonderful human being. You illustrate your point excellently. Carry on, Bro.

    Got wet today … in NY. Here for three weeks. Love to Bev and others. Peace.

    • Billybuc August 16, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

      Dry off, Manatita,and enjoy those three week in NY. Sending thanks and blessings your way.

  8. suziehq August 16, 2017 at 2:57 am #

    I love to hear peoples stories like you just wrote about, about another time when life was very different. Living here now in Rural Southern Italy we are surrounded by such stories from the past and as we are discovering, the present. Thanks Bill for another well penned article, have a super week, Ciao! xxxx

    • Billybuc August 16, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

      I am quite certain, Irish, that you are surrounded by storytellers. Enjoy your week, my friend, and thank you!

  9. phoenix2327 August 16, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

    Well, isn’t that what history is? All the best stories of the events that came before us and the people who shaped those events? History was a favorite subject of mine for that very reason. I never saw it as a collection of dates to remember. It was story time. And what wonderful stories they were.

    • Billybuc August 17, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

      Zulma, that’s the way I saw history, but it helped to have some very good history teachers along the way. And it helps, daily, to know that we writers are recording the stories for kids to read many years from now.

  10. Andrea Stephenson August 16, 2017 at 7:49 pm #

    Great advice Bill, that connection is so important to make.

    • Billybuc August 17, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

      Thank you very much, Andrea!

  11. Michael Milec August 17, 2017 at 2:17 am #

    It is a true pleasure my friend to read your article written directly for me and never mentioning the name. Thus the other readers can benefit too. Truly, that is perfect example of a real storyteller. Thank you so much.
    ( PS . In my previous life I was a “storyteller” directly to living audience. They wanted their need to be met, often not knowing what their need was and my responsibility was to meet their need half way so that they would be drawn back next time. [ I never knew the percentage of connection made]. )
    A search for my identity continues.

    • Billybuc August 17, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

      MIchael my friend, exactly the point! I can’t imagine a society without the stories of our past…and present….we give a gift each and every time we write.


  12. Dee August 17, 2017 at 4:13 am #

    I do love a good story, especially when they have a short personal share within. If you are going to tell a tale — make it pull the reader’s interest. Your advice is gold!

    • Billybuc August 17, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

      Thank you Dee! You summed it up perfectly.

  13. Sageleaf August 22, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

    Big Bro! Just wanted to come by and tell you that I know you usually publish on Tuesdays and with the start of a new (well, sort of, lol) marketing gig and such, I won’t be home until late this evening, so I might not get to see your newest post immediately. Just wanted to tell you that I so look forward to your awesome stories each Tuesday and apologies in advance if I don’t make it over immediately. 🙂 Sending hugs!

    • Billybuc August 22, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

      Aww, Lil Sis, that was sweet. I just noticed that I forgot to write one for this week….LOL…I still have time to post it tomorrow, though, so thanks for the reminder. You’re the best!

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