I am a storyteller. It is what I try to do when I blog, when I write and when I preach sermons. I don’t always tell good sermons. Or write good blogs. But I am always amazed that the things that I write that resonate with people are often snapshots of my own vulnerable experience. A job interview where I felt exposed, a hard ending to a pastoral position, angst and worry about my vocation, and me feeling stuck. When I write a book review or musings on faith or the lectionary, I make far less impact than when people find themselves in my story. Not that all my stories are well crafted, and I can learn to do this better.
Do/ Story/ How to Tell Your Story So The World Listens is a short book on telling stories in a way that is compelling and engaging, regardless of the context. The author, Bobette Buster, hails from Kentucky (and the storied south), is the professor of Storytelling at Northeastern University in Boston, teaches and consults on storytelling all over the world, including with studios like Pixar, Disney and Sony Animations. Additionally, she has been awarded grants to collect the stories of Appalachia. She know storytelling and she reveals some of the tricks here.
The substance of Buster’s approach to storytelling is captured in her 10 principles of Story Telling.
1) Tell your story as if you’re telling it to a friend: this applies no matter where you are who your audience is.
2) Set the GPS: give the place, time, setting and any relevant context. Keep it factual, short, and sweet.
3) Action! Use active verbs or, as I like to say, “Think Hemmingway”: spice up your verb choice but kept them succinct. . . .
4) Juxtapose: take two ideas, images, or thoughts and place them together. let them collide. Remeber German philosopher Fredriech Hegel here: that in posing two opposing ideas, a whole new idea is created (thesis + antithesis = synthesis). This tool wakes up your audience and it is the root of all successful stories.
5) Gleaming detail: choose one ordinary moment or object that becomes the “gleaming detail,” something that captures and best embodies the essence of the story. Make the ordinary extraordinary.
6) “Hand over the Spark”: reflect on the experience or the idea that originally captivated you and simply hand it to your audience as if it were a flame.
7) Be vulnerable: dare to share the emotion of your story. . . .
8) Tune into your sense memory: choose the strongest of the five senses in your story and use it to make a deeper connection with your audience.
9) Bring yourself: a story is as much about you as about anything else.
10) Let go: hand over your story, letting it build to its natural emotional punchline, and then end it and get out fast. Leave the audience wanting more. (from page 22-23)
In the rest of the book, Buster fleshes these out with stories and illustrations and exercises for practice. Some of these stories she tells come from her workshops. Other stories are from compelling individuals (e.g. Alice Waters, Steve Jobs, Doug Tompkins and Yvon Choinard, etc.
I liked this book a lot. Buster’s approach to storytelling is simple and straightforward. It is short and not pretentious. It focuses on the elements of the story that best communicate truth (vulnerability, craft, the ‘spark.’). I definitely will hang on to this one. I give it four stars.
Note: I received a copy of this book from a Library Thing giveaway in exchange for my honest review.