Your Content Questions Answered – A Q&A Series
This is the first post in our brand new Q&A series where we answer all your burning questions on content and storytelling.
The featured question of the day is all about the essential skills for modern-day storytelling. See the Q&A below.
Q: What Skills Do You Need to be a Storyteller in today’s world?
A: The ability to tell stories has become one of the most sought after skills of this generation. Without a doubt, storytelling has the power to advance causes, businesses, political agendas and even contribute to building a person’s public persona. However, all this can only happen when the storytelling skill is properly utilized.
As relevant and alluring as this skill has become, storytellers are now faced with more challenges than ever before. In a world where everyone is inherently a storyteller, there is an increased sense of pressure on people who have chosen storytelling as a career path. It’s not just about getting it right – these days, it’s all about mastery. How deep can you go? What emotions can you evoke with your story? How well does your story resonate? These are the questions a new generation of highly judgemental viewers or readers will make you constantly ponder about.
These days, everyone with a twitter account has a strong opinion about what stories brands should be telling or how a movie/book should have ended. Storytellers are almost never given the benefit of the doubt because for some reason the audience is now better equipped with knowledge on how a good story should look. This has its upsides as well – storytellers are challenged to enhance their storytelling prowess and aim for mastery.
So what does it take to be skillful at storytelling you asked?
Well, there are 3 basic skills that are essential for storytellers in this age. In order to excel as a storyteller, you must be:
1. Imaginative but thoughtful: You cannot be a storyteller without an imaginative mind. You need a mind that sees things differently and dreams differently. You need to be crazy enough to believe that anything is possible. Most great storytellers know this and swear by this, but in today’s world, there is a need for extra care. Being thoughtful with your story is now more important than ever.
There’s so much going on in today’s world and you cannot afford to overlook certain things. For instance, it is important to consider how your story will make a certain group feel. We’re seeing more and more brands being boycotted because of how insensitive they have been with their messaging. Take Pepsi for example, when they released an ad featuring top model, Kendall Jenner. You cannot afford to tell your story in isolation of the facts. Being a great storyteller requires an incredible amount of research. While creativity may be an important ingredient for success, research is undeniably paramount. Pay attention to important happenings in your environment; take note of the things that people are sensitive about – whether it’s race, culture, religion or any other beliefs. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t base your stories on existing truths or that you shouldn’t be bold or daring. The point here is to be aware of how your story will impact people’s lives and be ready to face the negative consequences that might come with your story. A great example is Nike, who did remarkably well – with their ad campaign featuring former NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, they took a bold stand for what they believed and delivered their message precisely and creatively.
Storytelling is really all about researching the facts, deciding what truth you would like to tell based on the existing knowledge gathered and telling it in the most creative and thoughtful way possible. It will be a waste of time to have to pull down an AD or halt the distribution of a movie that cost millions to produce, so it pays to be thoughtful when telling your story.
2. Fluid: There’s more than one way to tell a story! A good storyteller must be flexible enough to consider multiple outcomes when crafting a story. If you’re telling a continuous story, as you would in a TV or web series, you cannot afford to be rigid. Just as in real life, people (characters) are always evolving.
Don’t be afraid to explore new directions and possibilities for each character in your story. Don’t constrict your creativity; the evolution of a character or the development of elements within your story just might help the story resonate better with your audience. Being fluid also means that you do not have to tell your story exactly how your audience expects you to.
3. Patient: Sometimes a story might take a while to unfold and that’s perfectly fine. You should never rush your story, instead give yourself time to tell the story especially when creating trilogies or any other type of long-form content. Trilogies like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Toy Story were all successful because of how consistent and patient their creators were. The truth is that great stories often take time and so a storyteller’s greatest virtue is patience.
Imagine if your favourite thriller novel presented the resolution to the conflict at the beginning, it definitely wouldn’t be enjoyable to the reader because there will be nothing else to look forward to. The suspense keeps the reader glued to the book and the writer requires patience to slowly reveal the details to the readers. As a storyteller, you must be patient with where your story is going and if you tell it well enough at each turn, your audience will definitely keep longing for more.
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