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Storytelling and connecting the dots

There’s a lot of advice out there about storytelling. Many resources about technique and structure – but somehow they don’t feel right.

Sure, a story needs a beginning, a middle and an end, but what makes a story a story is connecting the dots. It’s making sense, offering an insight, teaching a lesson, creating meaning, engaging with the emotions. The structure helps, but a story isn’t a story just because of its architecture.

Once Hemingway was challenged to write a story in six words. This is what he wrote:

“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

This is a perfect example of a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. But what creates the story is the imagination and the emotions that it sparks – something the following story doesn’t do:

“Going shopping. Bought vegetables. Came back home.”

The storyteller connects the invisible dots and creates a space for the audience’s imagination, meaning-creation and emotions. The structure helps, but the story isn’t the structure. 

Annette Simmons describes a story as a narrated sequence of words or other triggers that creates a simulated experience (images, smells, sounds, tastes, touches, and emotions) in the mind of another person.

More prosaically I would say that a Spanish omelette consists of eggs, salt, olive oil and potatoes.

My mum can make the most amazing Spanish omelette you can imagine. What makes it amazing isn’t the order in which she adds the ingredients, which is important, but how she makes it. That’s why my mum’s Spanish omelette scores 10 and I get 6 following the same recipe. What my mum creates in the minds of her guests is “This is delicious”. What I get is “That’s good.”



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