How to tell a story

Every story must have a beginning, middle, and end. Tony Loyd uses the acronym SOAR:

  • Scene
  • Obstacles encountered
  • Action taken
  • Resolution1

Storyboard artist Emma Coats outlines a fairytale form as the following: “Once upon a time, there was (blank). Every day, (blank). One day, (blank). Because of that, (blank). Because of that, (blank). Until finally, (blank).”2

Author John Gardner says, “A character wants something, goes after it despite opposition … and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.”3

If you’re in the middle of your story, you can tell it as a pitch or a choose-your-own adventure: share where you’ve been, where you find yourself now, and where you may be in the future.4

Make sure you know why tell the story.1 Why create?

Storytelling is effective when:

  • You use a hook5
  • You stay on track1—even simply writing in chronological order will captivate your audience5
  • You know your ending, the point you wish to make,1 who the message is for,5 and what central theme or plot point you’re going for6
  • You embrace conflict and struggle6
  • You have a clear structure6
  • You Tell the truth
  • You involve the reader/listener,1 what Ira Glass calls “bait”5 (see Also The Reading Process—A Phenomenological Approach)
  • You tell it with compassion
  • You don’t co-opt someone else’s story (see Is this story only mine to share?)

Fairytales break the rules of modern storytelling conventions, and the form can offer a nice reprieve. Kate Bernheimer says there are four features of fairytales: flatness (particularly flatness of character), abstraction (lack of details), intuitive logic (like dream logic, or surrealism, or magical realism), normalized magic. Lincoln Michel adds two more: open artifice, and a non-setting. Some of these features have some crossover with other genres.7

However you tell it, remember Sharing your story is important.

  1. [Telling Our Stories: A Guide to Writing Your Own Story Next Avenue](

     2 3 4 5

  2. Show Your Work pg. 98 

  3. Show Your Work pg. 99 

  4. Show Your Work pg. 102 

  5. How to Tell Your Story without Boring Your Audience to Tears  2 3 4

  6. How to Tell a Story Effectively: 7 Storytelling Tips - 2023 - MasterClass  2 3

  7. Fairy Tale as MFA Antidote - by Lincoln Michel 

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