How to Tell a Story
When we’re trying to tell a story, we all get stuck sometimes. If you could use a little guidance to help you figure out why the story in your head isn’t transferring to the page the way you’d imagined, then you’re in good company. Even award-winning storytellers struggle with this, which is why they develop strategies to help them evaluate their own stories.
Arree Chung, generous soul that he is, took time out of his busy schedule last week to make a video for us that covers some of the strategies he uses for telling stories. A lot of what he covers in this video can be found in his Crafting Picture Book Stories class. But even if you’ve taken the class, sometimes hearing (and seeing) something a little differently (or one more time) helps it click. Arree uses his award-winning picture book Mixed as an example of how his strategies work throughout the following video, so I’ll be giving away a copy at the end of this post.
The Power of Story
Arree makes some important points at the beginning of his video about the power of story.
- We learn through sharing stories.
- Stories touch our heart and make us feel.
- Stories engage our imagination and inspire us to take action.
I don’t know why you’re writing and/or illustrating stories for children, but one of the reasons I write stories is because stories have profoundly impacted my own life for the better. Stories have been a lot of things to me over the years: an inspiration, a guide, an escape, an assignment to be endured, a reward, spiritual enlightenment, and insight into how someone different than me sees the world.
This article from Scholastic for teachers states, “Research supports the idea that reading can expand students’ worldviews and build empathy.” That doesn’t mean that all of our stories should teach children lessons. Kids get plenty of lessons. But it does put some pressure on us as storytellers to represent people with empathy and integrity.
With that being said, let’s dive into Arree’s strategies for telling stories!
Strategies for How to Tell a Story
If you didn’t watch the video earlier, then please watch it to see how Arree used the following strategies to create Mixed.
Figuring out the kid-relatable emotion and focusing on one kid-relatable problem in your story will simplify your story and make it more powerful. Your book also needs something special that will make it marketable. If you’re not sure what would make a child pick up your book, you probably still have some foundational work ahead of you.
Some advice I’ve heard from editors at conferences is to remember that even if you start out with a true story from your childhood, you’re the storyteller. You can do anything you want with that story if you’re writing fiction. Keep the emotional core of the memory, and then have fun with it!
The Story Structure Arree Follows
Your story structure doesn’t need to look just like Arree’s, but this is a helpful guideline to hit all of the important elements. And Arree has some helpful questions for you to ask in the beginning section, the middle section, and the ending section of your story.
Why Are Stories Powerful?
And circling back to why we’re telling stories in the first place, let’s look at why Arree thinks stories are powerful. Having clarity on what makes stories powerful can help you tell more powerful stories.
- People learn from them.
- People identify with it.
- Inspire that imagination!
I’m giving away Arree Chung’s Mixed. Tell me something helpful you learned from Arree’s video in the comments to enter. This giveaway will close on April 5 at midnight, PDT. You can share this post on social media for extra entries. Just post a link (or let me know) in a comment below.
Thanks for reading!