Bar friends

Accessorize your stories

Telling a story can be intimidating, even if the audience is friends or family. Luckily, all of us, myself included, have stories we’ve told many times. These are the stories we tell over and over again over time. They are the reliable stories that we love to share or answers to questions we answer every time we meet someone new. How did you meet your partner? How about your worst travel experience? Mine involved a hard side suitcase with a hole in it and travel to a country where I was considered an XL. I’m not.

If the idea of storytelling seems intimidating, improve your skills by working on the stories you already tell.

It was a dark and stormy night…

Add details about place to make your story more interesting. They contribute to a sense of place in your story. Describe the weather or the time of year or the place. Did your first kiss happen in the rain in front of a bar? Were you soaking up the sun in the park? Was there music? Add details to give your story a real sense of place, not just a location.

And then… and then…

Tell a story about one event. Too often, what we think of as a story is in fact a series of events. In the end, they don’t add up to a story. Here’s a guideline: if you find yourself repeating the phrase “and then,” you might not be telling a story. Sometimes the art of storytelling is leaving things out. Remember, your story needs a beginning, middle, and end.

The lady in the red dress…

It’s unlikely that you’re the only person in your story. Some of the best stories, after all, are about people interacting. When you introduce other people in your story, introduce them well and add a detail. For example, I had a high school History teacher who loved to ski and wore seersucker jackets. Well-chosen details tell a lot about a person and the kind of relationship they have with the storyteller.

Stories get better with practice. The next time you tell a familiar story, try one adding a detail or leaving something out. Describe the friend you had the adventure with. Watch for your audience’s reaction. Did it work? Use it again next time. If your change didn’t improve the story, no problem. Next time, try something different.

So, what are your favorite stories to tell?

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