Okay. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at that word.
That’s understandable. I’ve been there.
It’s something of a tragedy that the art of storytelling (and let’s be clear, it really is an art) has become the hottest new buzzword in internet marketing. “You need to tell stories!” proclaim endless blog posts – without exactly defining how and, more importantly, why.
In fact ‘storytelling’ has become the new ‘content’. And I hate the word ‘content’. It sounds like . . . what? Concrete, made of words? Just pour it in until the walls are thick enough, guys!
And storytelling is going the same way.
Unfortunately, as with ‘content’, there’s no better word – or at least more universally recognised word, which amounts to the same thing. So we’re kinda stuck with ‘storytelling’.
The good news is, storytelling is even more powerful than buzzword-addled marketers would have you believe. It can lift you above the crowd. It can help your work get into people’s heads, and help it stay there. It can (this may sound creepy) influence your audience in ways they barely understand – and it can rewire our brains in all sorts of exciting ways.
(It’s also, you know, incredibly fun. That too.)
I hope you are sitting comfortably?
Then let’s begin.
Firstly and most self-promotingly, please check out my new storytelling course for bloggers by clicking below:
Meanwhile, here on this page, I’ve collected together all the storytelling resources I’ve found really useful and/or geeked over from the last 3 years. I currently make a living from a mixture of telling my own stories (mainly around my love of exploring the world) and teaching other people how to tell theirs — and everything that follows has either helped me or inspired me to keep doing what I do.
I’ll be maintaining this list as I go ahead. Check back for updates!
1. “Storytelling”? Eh? — Introductions to the subject.
2. Storytelling Theory — The science bit, both literally and figuratively.
3. Tips & Tools — Practical techniques you can learn and apply to everything.
4. Great Storytelling In Action — ‘Nuff said.
5. Online Collections — Collecting together the best stories on the Web.
1. “Storytelling”? Eh?
I used to think storytelling was pretentious, throwaway nonsense aimed at kids, or, at best, a pointless synonym for “good writing”. The following three books convinced me otherwise — and the fourth title is a free booklet I wrote to explain to other people how wrong I’d been.
“The Storytelling Animal” – Jonathan Gottschall
The most fun thing I read in 2012. Gottschall writes on the intersection between science and literature, and this book is packed full of evidence from both fields. It’s funny, engaging and deeply thought-provoking, and it practices what it preaches. I burned through it excitedly in a single night, then went through it again slowly, filling a whole notebook with things I wanted to know more about.
Read Maria Popova’s review here.
“The Story Factor” – Annette Simmons
This is a book about how stories persuade, and it opens with a bold statement:
Storytelling moves us into the place where we trust what we know, even if it can’t be measured, packaged or validated empirically.
In the hands of less scrupulous authors this might be the prelude to a lot of spurious feelgoodery. Instead, this is a deeply specific book about persuasion and influence, and about the human impact of telling good stories – all delivered in an engagingly frank manner. Simmons sounds like the kind of teacher you have at school that says, “OK, so we’re supposed to be reading chapter 6 of your textbook today, but it’s complete nonsense, so let’s do something else that isn’t a waste of our time. OK with you guys?”
“Wired For Story” – Lisa Cron
Two words: “brain science”. Cron’s approach to the subject uses the latest findings in neuroscience to pin down her arguments, and she’s interested in unlocking the various storytelling techniques that traditionally work so well on audiences, in order to understand why that is. I’m still making notes from my copy. It’s really thick with things to think about.
In 2012 I started speaking about storytelling at travel blogging conferences. This introductory ebook was the result of the first such presentation, at the Travel Bloggers Unite conference in Umbria, Italy.
Note: if you have problems saving & reading it on a Mac or iOS, try downloading this version instead.
2. Storytelling Theory
“The Cambridge Introduction To Narrative” — H. Porter Abbot. (Comprehensive, accessible summary of the complexities of narrative theory.)
“Your Brain On Fiction” — Annie Murphy Paul – New York Times, March 17th 2012.
“The Future Of Storytelling” — Latitude Group. (The results of a survey focused on the next generation of story-consumers, using mobile phones, tablets and serialized digital narratives in all popular forms.)
“The Science of Storytelling: How Narrative Cuts Through Distraction” / “Infecting An Audience: Why Great Stories Spread” / “Story 2.0: The Surprising Thing About The Next Wave Of Narrative” — Jonathan Gottschall — Fast Co Create
“2013: The Year ‘The Stream’ Crested” — Alexis Madrigal — The Atlantic, December 12th 2013.
“The Reading Life: Why Are You Telling Me This?” – Jen Vafidis – Vol.1 Brooklyn, November 18th 2013.
“Is ‘storytelling’ to advertising agencies what ‘hammering’ is to blacksmiths?” – Lazar Dzamic – The Guardian, December 3rd 2013.
“Light It Up: The Power Of Storytelling” – Jenna Schnuer – American Way, December 2013.
3. Tips & Tools
“Big Book Of Narrative” — Nieman Storyboard. (Storyboard, a branch of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, looks at literary journalism — the use of storytelling techniques usually found in fiction, applied to non-fictional work. It’s a glimpse inside the heads of the best journalists alive today — and this post, collecting together the site’s 150 best articles on storytelling, is incredibly good value, not least because it’s free.)
“Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer” — Roy Peter Clark.
“Future Of Storytelling” (summit & blog — nothing to do with Latitude Group’s study, above).
“Storytelling in 2013” — Gary Vaynerchuk.
“The Mystery Box” — J.J. Abrams – TED.
“The Shape Of Stories” — Kurt Vonnegut.
“Open Road, Open Life” — Andrew Evans – TEDx Danubia.
“How To Build An Online Community” – Shannon O’Donnell
“Resources For Storytellers” – Jodi Ettenberg
“Skip To The End: 5 Great Ways To Make Your Readers Care” — my guest post at Problogger.
“15 Insanely Actionable Storytelling TipsFor Your Next Business Presentation” – Nuts & Bolts Speed Training.
“The 27 Copywriting Formulas That Will Drive Clicks And Engagement On Social Media” — Kevan Lee, Buffer blog.
Here At Fevered Mutterings
4. Great Storytelling In Action
“Snow Fall” — New York Times, 2012.
“Firestorm” — The Guardian, 23rd May 2013.
“The Man Who Sailed His House” — Michael Paterniti — GQ, October 2011.
“Chasing Alexander Supertramp” — Eva Holland — Skye, 5th December 2013.
“A Pickpocket’s Tale” — Adam Green — The New Yorker, 7th January 2013.
“Flight 447: We Cannot Penetrate This Weather” — Daniel Noll — Uncornered Market, June 2013.
“Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” — CarrieNYC.
5. Online Collections
“The Unlisted List” — Vela
“Snowfallen” — charting the next wave of online multimedia storytelling — from Bobbie Johnson at Medium.
More coming soon!
(Note: where there are links to Amazon, they use my affiliate code, so I get a tiny percentage of any purchases you make, which costs you nothing extra.)