How to Tell a Story | StageMilk

How to Tell a Story

Written by on | Acting Tips How-To Guides for Actors

How To Tell A Story – 5 Easy Steps

Knowing how to tell a story is the most important part of being and actor, writer or director. Here are 5 simple ways to improve your story telling.

Step 1. Be Specific.

The first step telling a great story is knowing the story you are going to tell. Be specific. For actors this will involve discussions with the writer, director and other cast members to clarify the story and make sure everyone is on the same page.

If a story shifts too frequently or moves too far away from the original topic, your audience will switch off. So choose your story and stick to it.

Remember you are telling the story for the benefit of others. To make them laugh or cry and hopefully both. So make sure you choose a story that is appropriate for your audience. There is no point telling a story if no one is listening.

Step 2. Structure.

All good stories have a beginning, middle and end. This structure helps audience follow the story as it builds in tension towards the punchline/climax.

Your ideal beginning will introduce the characters. Who they are, what they want and what they’re doing. The beginning should also indicate the direction in which the story is going (the end). This will let your listeners know the genre of your story.

The middle is where things will happen to the characters. Obstacles will get in the way of what they want. This is the stuff great stories are made of.

The end is where all of these things reach a point where something interesting/exciting/tragic has to happen… and then it does! To the gasps, laughter and or tears of your eager listener(s).

Step 3. Conflict and Tension.

Conflict is an integral part of how to tell a story. Conflict occurs when the character meets an obstacle that they must struggle against to get what they want.

Tension refers to the stress or pressure of your story that will be released at the climax. Progressive tension is the most important tool in how to tell a story. If the tension doesn’t build or is released too early I guarantee your punchline will fail.

“You should have seen what happened to Dave yesterday, it was hilarious. He didn’t realize it was Sunday. He was racing around, running late for work. Tripped over the dog, lost his keys, then got in the car and realized it was Sunday! How funny is that?” Not very. Because the tension was released in the second line.

Step 4. Pay Attention to Detail.

In story telling you must give the audience all the information they need in order to appreciate your story. This means describing the characters and locations of your story in detail. Beware of being overly descriptive, however, because it may bore listeners.

Descriptions should always enhance the story. For example “The lovely old lady who lives in the little house around the corner, asked me over for coffee!” Here you can see that description gives extra emphasis to the story. The description also tells the audience how the story teller feels about the object.

Step 5. Jazz.

Your story has structure and conflict, the moments are detailed, now you have to let that all go. Seriously.

All the best actors and comedians say that after all the preparation is done, let it go. Be impulsive. A great story should change every time you tell it. A great acting performance is the same. Trust your impulses, take a deep breath, and go for it!

It’s your turn to solo.

About the Author

Luke (StageMilk Team)

is trained as an actor at the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. He is now a professional actor based in Sydney, Australia. He recently finished working with Mel Gibson on his upcoming feature, Hacksaw Ridge.

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