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Humans have been telling stories for thousands of years, sharing them orally even before the invention of writing. In one way or another, much of people’s lives are spent telling stories — often about other people.

We all enjoy a good story, whether it’s a novel, a movie, a piece of theatre or simply something one of our friends is explaining to us that they’ve experienced.

Stories spark emotions

Stories are the way we reach out to people and emotionally connect. They’re a way to share information, dreams, to entertain, inspire and connect with others.

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” ~ Robert McKee

The secrets of great storytelling

1. Focus your story on the audience — your audience is the most important part of any story. Much more important than the characters or the plot. And much more important the story teller.

2. All good stories are about people — make sure you focus your story on the real-life characters of your story. People are what serve as the audience’s guide through the story, and what an audience will connect with.

3. Make me care — if people don’t care about your story; if it doesn’t stir up emotions — they won’t think about it and they’ll simply switch off.

4. Engage your audience — make them feel part of the story. Make them feel they are hanging on the edge of their seats and they can’t wait for the next thing you say. Use humor, shock, authenticity and vulnerability to draw people in.

5. Show, don’t tell — it’s the most fundamental rule of storytelling, and for good reason. Your audience should see a picture, feel the conflict, and become involved in your story – if they don’t you won’t connect with them emotionally.

6. Have a purpose — your audience should know exactly why they took this journey with you. In the end, this may be the most important rule of all. If your audience can’t answer the question, “What was the story all about?” it won’t matter if you follow any of the other rules.

7. Have a strong theme — a strong theme is always running through a well told story. It’s a constant, a guideline, a roadmap. It’s the universal idea, lesson, or message that stretches through the entire story.

8. Use what you know — draw from it. This means capturing a truth from your experience, expressing values you personally feel deep down in your core.

9. Set up the scene — describe events and elements leading up to it. Show where your story is happening then introduce the main characters.

10. Introduce struggle — there is something about struggle that just engages us emotionally. Conflict, struggle, the hard things that are happening to you — they’re the hook to your story. If you can hook them with the struggle then you can help them with the solution.

11. Give a solution — the best stories show us something about how we should treat ourselves, others, or the world around us.

12. Use dialogue — it makes your story personable and relatable. It makes your stories come alive. When characters speak to each other in a story, it lends immediacy, urgency and authenticity.

13. Use details — they create images. Details make it vivid, they make it tangible. When you can do that you’ll bring your story to life.

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn, tell me a truth and I’ll believe, but tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” ~ Native Indian Proverb