Tag Archives: storytelling

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.”