10 Simple Tips to Master Storytelling

Originally posted on Twitter by Nathan Baugh

Most storytelling advice sucks.

Here are 10 dead-simple tips to become a better storyteller: 

  1. Cut the fluff

Most stories start with 10 minutes of backstory.

Instead, try a “cold open” — jump straight into the action.

Create intrigue then incorporate the backstory later.

Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger did it best. The Joker robbing a bank… 

  1. Create a hero

Your audience needs a hero to experience the story through.

Common traits from Harry Potter to Bruce Wayne:

  • Start as an underdog / orphan
  • Overcome their greatest fears
  • Helped by mentors

We want characters to succeed but we don’t want success to come easy.

  1. Build a world

JK Rowling says: “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

A few tips to create your world:

  • Use rituals
  • Create a shared language
  • Define its laws

Storytelling is how you introduce people into the world you’ve built.

  1. Layer on the drama

When you don’t think something can get worse, make it worse.

When your character is facing adversity and their back is against the wall, you have the makings of a great story. 

  1. Use hooks continuously

The longer your story is, the more hooks you need.

  • Cliffhangers
  • Agitating the problem
  • Unanswered Questions

For his product launches, Steve Jobs ‘agitated the problem’ multiple times throughout.

Here’s him doing it near the end of the iPhone launch: 

  1. Study your audience

Your story is not for everyone.

Identify your target audience and ask intentional questions.

Brand storytelling Questions:

  • How can we get more specific?
  • What are the biggest problems our customers are facing?
  • What’s their ideal transformation look like? 
  1. Slow down

Before your story’s climax, pause to force your audience to lean in.

When speaking, stop talking for 3 seconds.

When writing, make your paragraphs longer, add more sensory details, and layer on the drama.

Force your audience to hang on to every word.

  1. Use data sparingly but intentionally

If you use too many numbers, none of them matter.

Instead, pick the most impactful and use those to amplify your story.

“Numbers tell, stories sell.” 

  1. Build to one moment

The entire story should be designed to amplify one moment.

But what is the moment about?

Change — I once was this, but now I’m this.

Here’s Steve Jobs’ one moment at the iPhone launch — “today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.” 

  1. Shape your story

Creatives like to avoid structure. But your audience needs it to follow your story.

Luckily there are proven frameworks you can adapt:

  • StoryBrand
  • Hero’s Journey
  • Three Act


Shupav Group is supporting business owners to build and scale successful brands in Africa. We do this through pioneering Digital Marketing, PR & Communications, and Sales Enablement solutions. www.shupav.com

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