PSU Insight

Speak with Power and Passion

How to Tell a Good Story

Storytelling is both an art and a science. People spend years in the quest to become great storytellers, and there's no way that you can become a great storyteller by reading one PSU Insight. But if you've always wanted to tell a story that people would enjoy listening to, you are more likely to develop an effective story if you first recognize the important elements that make it up. These elements include:

  • Purpose: What does the story accomplish? What’s its point? A fable should have a moral to the story. A ghost story doesn't necessarily have a moral, but that's OK... as long as you scare the willies out of your listeners.

  • Relevance: If your listeners cannot put themselves ‘into’ the story, they probably won’t have as much interest in it.

  • Personal: Stories about you are often more interesting than stories related about someone else. However, if you're relating a story about someone else, it helps if you can tie yourself into the story (or to the person you're talking about) in some way.

  • Original: A previously unheard story will hold your audience’s interest more than a story which they’ve heard before. (Since your listeners are more likely to have heard a story about a famous person or event than they have about you, that's another good reason to relate personal stories.)

  • Credible: Your credibility is reduced if your audience doesn’t believe your story... even if it’s true! (The exception, of course, is the traditional fairy tale or the more outrageous "tall tale". When you're telling an obviously fictional story and your audience knows it, they don't expect you to have credibility.)

  • Triumphant or Surprising Outcome: Your story must end on a strong note. Strong conclusions usually either involve unexpected twists (where your audience members say to themselves "I didn't expect that!"), or are emotionally satisfying ("Of course!").