A little industry called Hollywood is based entirely on people’s love of a good story. Everybody loves hearing stories. Learn to tell awesome stories! From now on, you’re going to tell awesome stories and everyone around you is going to love you for it.
If you read from start to finish and follow along, from this moment on, you’re going to be a jolly good storyteller. Like that old grandpa with a bunch of kids sitting around. This is what you want. It’s your time to tell awesome stories!
Telling awesome stories is fully within your grasp. Even if you’ve never told a good story before. You’re going to learn a secret for finding tons of awesome stories to tell.
What follows are three powerful keys for telling awesome stories. Are you ready?
Key #1: The Story List
It starts with having awesome stories to tell. I want you to follow along with this little exercise. Right now, pull out a sheet of paper. Actually go get one right now. Got it? Awesome. Now, here’s what you want to do…
Without thinking, write out every single big event you can fathom from your life. Just write a quick bullet point for each idea that flows out of your mind. Write out your most funny moments, the embarrassing stories, your successful moments, the challenging memories, everything.
Don’t think. Just write. Fast. Make a bullet-point for each idea. Take a minimum of five minutes (actually time this on your phone) to do this exercise. Got it? Awesome. You now have a list of the 15+ most exciting events of your life. Those events will be turned into your stories.
Now, you’re going to do this exercise – again. Only this time, write down the most funny, embarrassing, successful and difficult memories you know of other people. Stories of others. Rather you know them or not. Take five minutes or more and free write. Ready? Go.
You should have at least fifteen personal stories and another fifteen plus anecdotes you’ve seen, witnessed, or heard of indirectly. That’s thirty plus awesome stories you can tell.
Now, re-write out each story on a document. Make this one fancy. You know, with nice font and such. This is your story list. Refer to it before you go out.
Read it before bed. Refer to it until you have them all memorized cold. And be sure to tell every single story from that freaking list. Be an open book. It’s the only way people are going to know and fall in love with the real you.
Key #2: Get Everybody’s Attention
Now you have tons of stories. All you need now is an audience! Awesome storytellers are masters at getting your attention (and you probably don’t even notice it).
For example… Have you ever sat down in a movie theatre right on time? You know, when the movie was listed to start Did you find yourself watching fifteen minutes of commercials?
Why is this? Why do movie theaters always start their movies late? Two reasons. The first is practical business. They want to advertise their future product. But the second reason is what we care about.
The second reason movie theaters start their movies late is to ensure they have everybody’s attention before starting their story. Their movie.
Movie theater’s realize that epic stories are only deemed epic by the audience, the viewer, when everyone gets to experience the full length of the tale.
Now what does this have to do you with you, and your ability to tell glorious stories, sir? Simple. Make sure you have everybody’s attention before you begin a story! Always. This is an absolute must. Starting your story without the attention of the whole audience or group of people you’re with not only kills the story for those who’s attention you haven’t captured, but equally, it kinda makes you look like a doofus.
Now… how do you get everybody’s attention? First, have a one sentence hook that grabs attention. This is the equivalent of the “title” of your blockbuster film. Your one sentence hook should tell enough to create intrigue, but it shouldn’t give away the punch line.
Something simple like, “I have a crazy story,” will work perfect if you have a reputation already as an exciting storyteller. But if you don’t, give away a bit more of a teaser. “That reminds me of the time a three hundred pound powerlifter wanted to fist fight me…” See? That’s an intriguing headline. Fights involving three hundred pound power-lifters tend to end with a fair bit of excitement, don’t you think?
But what happens if you share your golden one sentence hook, but you still don’t have full attention? If it’s only one person who isn’t paying attention, just call out his/her name. “Yo Rick, listen up, I have a story about a three hundred pound powerlifter who wanted to get violent!” Boom. Problem solved. Rick will pay attention unless if you’re clueless to the social situation and he’s engaged in a deep conversation already.
Another way to ensure you have the full attention is… Take a quick pause… before you begin telling one of your epic 30+ stories.
Share your one sentence hook. Then, breathe. Chill. Count down from 99 bottles of beer on the wall to 96 bottles, or so. Then, continue. Silence is a sharp deviation from the norm and people’s ears are trained to notice it. This is a trick your fourth grade teacher used to use to get your attention. It worked for her then. Funny enough, it’ll work for you, too (even when sharing your stories to your big adults friends).
Key #3: Build the Suspense
You want to be a bit of a tease. Most people get to the punch line too fast. If you overdo the teasing, and never deliver the punch line, people lose interest. But most people, with fear that this will happen, rush the story and thus, it’s over before the story ever got going. Storytelling is an art. It’s why the old grandpa is the master storyteller. (He’s had plenty of time to practice).
The key with building suspense is to milk the story for as much excitement as possible without overdoing it to the point where you lose attention.
With storytelling, you want to keep attention high. Suspense is the mechanism for keeping that attention. Suspense is defined as a state of feeling excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. In other words, suspense when you’ve yet to share the conclusion to the story. See, a good story teller sets the hook by sharing a bold claim, or a teaser claim, of a suspenseful plot.
Then, he (and now you), want to draw that suspense out by sharing the full story to it’s peak before hitting the audience with the big grand finale – the conclusion. What follows are two ways to build suspense longer and make your stories epic.
First, the point(s) of view from your characters in the story. If you’re telling a personal story, this means you narrate what you were thinking and feeling. Example, “when I saw the audience of over a thousand people staring at me, I felt like vomiting. My head felt lighter than a balloon.” See? That’s me narrating my point of view. When narrating from your own point of view, share both the emotions you were feeling and the thoughts that were running through your head.
Another example, “My mind was swirling out of control. I kept telling myself, ‘Holy shit I’m screwed, holy shit I’m screwed.” Here, I’m giving you an internal snapshot into my point of view in the moment, during my story. This not only prolongs the story, but it also heightens suspense. Your point of view also offers opportunities for humor. The authentic thoughts were having amid your stories are excellent fuel for building humor, excitement, anxiety, and just about anything else.
Now, if you’re telling somebody else’s story, you still want to narrate. Here, you get to have fun because you get to basically make up their point of view. “You know that guy was freaking out. From the looks of it he didn’t know whether to shit or go blind. From the second you looked at that guy, you could tell his chances were bleak.” See here, you’re giving your commentary on what he must have been thinking and feeling.
Which leads me to another point about all stories. Just as you want to offer personal commentary about your thoughts, also add commentary to what other people in the story were likely thinking and feeling. “You know that old woman in the grocery store line was disappointed with where society had gone when she saw that teenager ask the girl in front of her to go home with him that night. She probably committed in her mouth.” Here, you’re using the point of view of the old lady in the grocery story to add commentary. This gives the story a new perspective, a new sticking point to enhance the suspense, and allows you to conclude the story with a bigger bang.
From here, once you milk all possible avenues for creating, building, and maintaining suspense, it’s time to share the conclusion. As storytelling is an art, there are countless ways to end a story. You can under-dramatize the conclusion for a comedic effect. You can share the concluding event that created the suspense and follow up by sharing what each person’s thoughts in the story were after the big finale event occurred. Or, you can share your point of view regarding what happened.
Much of this comes down to what feels right. Story telling is what you make of it. There are no hard and fast rules. the more stories you tell, the better you get at telling them.
With that, I leave you with a call to action. Oh yes… a challenge for you, sir. This is the 30x30 challenge. In the next thirty days, I challenge you to share 30 or more of the stories you now have on your story list. Maybe you tell one a day. Or maybe, you go out to the pub once a week and brain dump 7 stories. How you accomplish your 30 stories in 30 days is up to you.
The key is to share your stories. Often! Practice practice practice. Not only will you build new, amazing connections with others by sharing your stories, but equally, your storytelling skills will drastically improve. So get out there! Then, let me know how it goes!
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