Five Tips To Support Storytelling In The 21st Century


by Becky Fisher

Hi, it’s nice to meet you! My name is Becky and I work in education technology. I’m from New York and I live in San Francisco. I used to teach elementary school music.

And this is not an interesting story; you don’t want to keep reading.

But in an era of social media and powerful digital media, storytelling might just be the single most important skill for kids to have in the 21st century.

Stories are all around us, and in our fast paced society it’s important to be able to tell a story in the most succinct and effective manner. From the sound bite, to the elevator pitch, to the 10 minute talk: Kids everywhere need to know how to generate events and ideas, and formulate it into a cohesive, interesting, and engaging story. Spanning a variety of media, kids can now tell stories in any way they prefer. And to be honest, they already are (just check YouTube to see their creations).

Now is the time to start curating that content; let’s foster a generation of kids that are critical consumers and informed creators of content.

Five Tips To Support Storytelling In The 21st Century

1. Be Unique

There is nothing worse than a vanilla ice cream story. This type of story is the run-of-the-mill introduction with no details, no conflict-climax-resolution, no character development, and most importantly, no interest. You have to find something that makes the story different. Whether it’s a dog on a skateboard, an alien encounter, or even that time when you realized you were allergic to strawberries. All of these stories have a unique hook that draws people in.

2. Find Your Voice

This is a tricky one. In order to discover a personal voice, you have to experiment with different styles of storytelling. In other words, many flavors of ice cream should be tasted before deciding on a favorite. Additionally, finding your voice is all about projecting confidence. If the voice is quiet, it should be projected with quiet confidence. If it is sassy, it should be projected with wit and a touch of humbleness. It’s all about being secure, but also relatable. A storyteller should always be on the same level as your audience.

3. Explore a Variety of Mediums

Storytelling does not only happen through words. As a music teacher, I encouraged my students to approach every performance, practice session, and lesson as a story. There should be a beginning, middle, and end, with a variety of peaks and valleys to keep the audience guessing, regardless of whether you’re dancing, singing, acting, telling, drumming, or drawing your story.

4. Practice Character Development

Whether you’re telling your own story or someone else’s, having well-developed characters is crucial to your success. Before telling your story, imagine the background of your characters. What does she like? What does she hate? Where is she from? Why is she a part of your story? Ask yourself as many questions as possible to get the clearest picture of your character. It doesn’t matter whether or not you will include these details in your narrative, but it is important to consider your characters’ backgrounds as you make plot decisions for your story. Practice character development by making up the backstory of people you see on the street. The more details you provide, the better your narrative will be.

5. Generate Rich Narratives with Useful Detail

Try this with your own personal story. How did you come to be where you are? Skim over some of your stories and emphasize others. Not all details are necessary, so focus on the ones that really enhance your story. When you provide details, make sure they are specific, allowing your audience to develop a vivid visual in their mind. Instead of saying you wore a “suit and tie” to your interview, say you wore the “brown tweed suit that hung in the back of your father’s closet untouched for five years and the black tie that your mother gifted to you when you got your first job in advertising.”

When you practice and build stories, make sure to add some sprinkles, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce to your ice cream. The more toppings you add, the more interesting your story can be. But if you overdo it, the sundae will be overwhelming. This will make your story stand out amongst the billions of stories in our world today. But as you craft and refine your storytelling skills, don’t forget to add the cherry on top.

For some examples, 5 of my favorite stories appear below.

  1. Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music
  2. Wall-E
  3. Paperman
  4. Dot. The world’s smallest stop-motion animation character
  5. Marcel the Shell with Shoes on

Becky Fisher is the Marketing and Community Manager at Kidaptive, Inc. She loves building things that promote creativity and believes that education technology should be cultivating a generation of passionate learners. Becky has a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and can be found on twitter at @bfish921; image attribution flickr user tribalcafe