Last week I helped organized a storytelling competition for a nonprofit newspaper with whom I work. The Raleigh Public Record’s annual Bard Brawl features six storytellers, chosen from a qualifying round each fall.
As I listened to each story followed by comments from the judges, I began to think about what makes a great story. Here are four things that stood out:
1. Start with a character. Whether it’s you or someone else, give us some details. Every story is about someone, or something, but it’s best to describe a few details about that right up front. Give us a reason to care.
2. Be sure your story has a theme, or a point. That might sound obvious, but from the fall round, I can tell you that some stories digressed, lacked focus and left the audience confused. It’s hard to vote for a story to win if you’re not even sure what it was about.
3. Choose some delicious words and emphasize them. Whether it’s an onomatopoeia or some other word, consider selecting a few that sound good when read aloud or inside someone’s head. Such words can lend power and poetry to your story.
4. Share something. Storyteller Bullfrog Willard McGee said as a judge, he’s looking for someone to reveal a bit of truth, share a piece of humanity. The great stories we tell over and over again aren’t just battles of good and evil, but little snippets of life that demonstrate something human in all of us.
In your mind, what are the elements of a great story?