“How to Tell a Story”
Donald L. Vasicek
Do you know how to tell a story? Where do you begin? What
carries your story? How do you end your story? What do you use
to hold all of your story elements together? What balances
out your story so that it is effectively told?
Although there are a multitude of ways to tell a story, too lengthy
to go into here, there are certain basic story elements
that should be contained in all stories, regardless of what
kind of story you are telling. This includes a joke, a short
story, a t.v. commercial, a novel, a screenplay, an article on why
Montana ranchers kill bison, a poem, song lyrics, a war story and so on.
The following is how to tell a compelling story:
The Beginning of the Story: For example, when I was on the Masai Mara Game Preserve in Kenya, I watched the drama that unfolded between a lioness, a mother water buffalo and her calf.
The Inciting Incident or the Dramatic Premise of the Story:
The lioness attacked the calf and wounded it. The calf crawled off into the
deep in the savannah.
The Middle of the Story: The mother chased the lioness off. She waited in the grass several yards away from the dying calf. The mother mounted several “attacks” on the lioness. They proved to be fruitless because the lioness wouldn’t buy into her intimidating tactics. The mother always pulled up and backed away before she made contact with the lioness. Finally, the mother walked away.
The Theme for the Story: Survival is the theme for the story. The lioness,
the baby calf and the mother seek survival.
The Goal in the Story: The goal of the protagonist and of the
antagonist and of the baby calf is to survive. Each character in the story has the same goal. The difference is that each character in the story goes about attaining the goal in a different way with differing purposes to attain the goal.
The lioness needed to eat. The mother wanted to survive, but save her baby
In the process. The baby calf attempted to hide in the deep grass.
The Ending: After final charge, the mother stopped. She looked at her herd. She looked back at her calf. A longing look. A look of heartbreak.
All of the anguish and pain and joy and happiness it took for her
to raise her baby was now ending. Finally, she turned her head.
She headed for her herd several yards away. The lioness immediately
pounced on the calf, killed it and began eating it.
If you apply these basic techniques in telling your story, your story will be
compelling and readers will enjoy reading it.