Here are the tips we share with everybody who tells a story at Gilead. With thanks to the many organizations and people we've learned from, like 2nd Story, The Moth, and folks including Scott Whitehair, Maria Vorhis, and so many others.
These are just a few basic rules of thumb (and there are always good reasons to break rules, so feel free). Especially if this is your first story, think about how these might help give shape and stakes to your story, take what's helpful, and ignore the rest.
Tips/things to consider as you prepare:
- We're aiming eventually for 3 to 5 minute written (or crafted) stories. For most folks, that's in the neighborhood of 600 or fewer words.
- Scene-driven: think in terms of distinct locations and what happens in each place. Something happens. Scenes distinguish a story from an essay. [More and more, I think this is THE KEY to good story-telling. Let your audience do the meaning-making. Guide them to it, with your edits and presentation, but don't unpack it for them too much.]
- Stories that are written/crafted to be delivered, not just read.
- Start IN the action and set up the stakes:
- If your story involves you climbing Mt. Everest, start with "The winds tore along the ridge; I checked my oxygen tank again" and later, bounce back to exposition.
- Use dialogue as much as possible, especially to tell the audience things that would otherwise be exposition.
- You can count on your voice and delivery to do the adjectival heavy-lifting. No need to say, "he stammered..." if you can deliver it, "H-he-hello!"
- It's about you: a true story as you experienced it. And you can leave out anything you don't want to share or that doesn’t serve your story. No one is going to fact-check you.
- Think about what your story is about (themes), beyond what happens (plot, facts). This helps keep you stream lined and edit out the stuff that may be good, but isn't necessary.