10 Things That Make For A Great Story
I don’t watch much late night TV anymore.
When you’re in bed by about 9pm every night you miss pretty much all of it.
But thanks to YouTube I can still catch some of the best interviews and snippets.
A few weeks ago or so I saw Chris Pratt on one of the shows. It might have been more than one.
He was telling a story about him and his wife. The clip was unusually long for a late night interview story. But when it was over I found myself thinking that this guy was a great storyteller.
Stories are a huge part of the human experience. Stories are how we interpret life.
And the best storytellers are often in positions of power. They can command attention. They can teach. They can communicate most effectively.
If you’re looking to become a better storyteller then I have a few tips for you.
Let’s start this thing out with a tip that’s a little from left field.
In the interview, Chris sits down with the host and they do a little small chat.
It’s interesting…the host does most of the chatting and Chris, I think, does a really good job of listening.
I think it’s a misconception, at least by some, that storytellers are always outgoing and gregarious. I think the best storytellers are the best listeners. They are always observing the world around them.
They pay attention to the people they’re with. They take in information and that information provides clues for what type of story might work to connect with those people.
I think that’s an overlooked quality of good storytellers and of good stories.
Know your audience.
2. Give People Hope
People like to have hope.
In just about every story we hear we always think about it in the context of our own lives.
The host tells a quick story about how Chris had big dreams, but was struggling to get the roles he wanted. Chris gave a little nod to the fact that he never lost faith in himself and his success.
I think that’s a good element of good storytelling.
People want to be hopeful about the future. A story with an element of hope gives listeners something they want. They can apply it to their own life and find the will to keep on moving forward in the difficult times.
3. Self Deprecation
Chris is obviously a pretty modest guy. He doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously.
When he’s telling stories he’s often using himself as the target of humor. He’s using himself as the target of rejection and things that might be negative.
That’s important in storytelling.
It’s difficult to poke fun of yourself. But it’s the best way to come across to others. Nobody wants to see someone make fun of someone else. It’s mean.
And nobody likes people that take themselves too seriously. Those storytellers aren’t interesting.
Chris talks about his travels. He doesn’t sugar coat it with the notion that he’s traveling often for fun. Although he doesn’t poo poo his life. He very much appreciates it.
But he’s honest about it. He says that he’s going around promoting the movie. He’s required to do it because of the contract he signed with the film company.
Still, he’s not complaining, but it’s always refreshing when you hear honesty.
People crave honesty in life. They don’t want things glossed over. They don’t want over exaggeration either. They just want the truth.
The truth and real life are funny and entertaining as is.
5. Share Feelings
Good stories are those of feelings and emotions.
The storyteller shares how they’re feeling.
There is one story Chris Pratt tells about his son. He was pretty proud to be a big star in a superhero movie, but he shares that his son could really care less about any of that.
You can tell Chris can laugh at it, but he’s also a bit sad. And the key is that he can share it.
You don’t want to be too guarded when telling a story. It comes off much better if you’re forthcoming with your feelings.
Chris compares his life to a hurricane. He goes into a little detail comparing how they’re the same.
Analogies help people understand things.
Analogies can be tricky. I won’t say that it’s easy to just compare the story you’re telling to something else.
But if you can figure it out and compare what you’re telling to something the listener will know you reel them in even more.
A big part of storytelling is making sure the other person understands. Analogies are a great way to accomplish that.
7. Voice Changes
Monotone doesn’t work well.
I know because I struggle with it.
When your voice stays the same during a story you can see the people looking around. Looking for a way out.
At the end Chris tells the story about him and his wife and a playlist he made for her. And he starts kind of singing the song he’s discussing.
Now, he could have just said the name of the song and moved on, but the story goes to another level when he changes his voice and starts singing.
It’s more intimate. It’s more interesting. It’s something different that makes you pay attention.
8. Different Levels Of Funny
In another late night clip Chris tells a funny story again about his son.
It’s funny, but it’s got multiple layers of funny.
Humor is really tricky. There are different elements to it. You don’t want something to be so complex that it’s confusing. But if you can add layers it’ll make the story even more interesting.
The story was that Chris and his son went to Universal Studios. An actor at the park was playing Chris Pratt’s character from a movie. But Chris’s son thought that it was the real person. And that his dad was playing this guy’s part when he did the movie.
One thing you hear about storytelling and with comedy is timing.
I think a big part of timing is knowing when to keep going and when to stop. Say you’re telling a joke or part of a story and you could keep providing details.
At that moment you have a feeling of if you should keep going or if you should leave it be and move on.
Some people learn that skill and others don’t. And it can ruin what might be a pretty good story.
10. Preparation & Experimentation
Storytelling is a numbers game.
It’s one of those things you have to practice and get good at over time. You have to bomb in front of friends and family. You’ll know when it doesn’t work.
But each of those moments will teach you what works and what doesn’t. And you can build on those moments.
I really don’t know why seeing a Chris Pratt clip on YouTube sparked this theme in my head. But I think it makes sense. There are a lot of people that come on these late night shows. They all are supposed to have entertaining stories. But many don’t.
It’s not easy. Chris Pratt always seems to have something good. He’s prepared. He’s practiced. He’s a good storyteller and he offers some things to learn about storytelling.