Five things you can do right now to tell better stories
There’s a mountain of ideas out there about how to tell better stories for social change. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Here are 5 things you can do today to improve how you tell stories. These ideas don’t have to be part of a grand plan. Just try them out and see what you get out of them!
- Call one of the people you serve and invite them to tell their story over lunch, or over the phone. Even if you don’t record the call, learning their story will help you learn more about why you do your work and how you can do it better. You might think of some questions in advance, but don’t get tripped up with lots of preparation–your eyes and ears and your attention are the most important thing in gathering stories.
- Revise a story you’re working on. If you’re writing a blog post or another story that doesn’t quite get to the heart of the matter–then read this chapter of the Narrative Arts storytelling guide. As suggested in the last paragraph of that chapter, try to capture the essence of the story by writing one sentence on the “before and after” of the story, the “turning point” of the story, and the stakes involved.
- Ask an acquaintance to critique your story. Have a story you want to improve? Ask a friend or acquaintance who won’t hesitate to be honest to read or listen to it. Ask them when they were bored, when they were confused, and when they were moved.
- Write your own story. You may spend your time in storytelling mostly on listening to other people’s stories rather than telling your own. If so, write a short story — just one page or 2-3 minutes — about an experience you had that got you more deeply involved in whatever your issue is. Working on criminal justice, for example? Write about a family member behind bars, a story you read in the newspaper, or the prison located near you. You might or might not use the story; regardless, it’ll help you reconnect with your own motivations for doing the work you do.
- Change the form of your story. You or your organization may tend to tell stories only on video, or only in blog posts, or only in some other form. Shake it up a bit. Take one story your group tells, and put it in another form: turn a written story into a short photo essay, or a video into an audio story. If you can’t change the format of the story so easily, try creating an outline or sketch of what the story might look like in another form.
Want more ideas? Read the Narrative Arts guide on “Storytelling and Social Change.”