The art of storytelling

Bring your story to life

How do you make the most horrible people in your life, look like nice people in your book?

And WHY would you try to do that anyway?

‘What is your excuse?’ was my first book, written about the fraud and deception in the charity world. When I wrote it, I made sure that I portrayed the villains that were committing these awful betrayals as the bad people I knew them to be.

My publisher forced me to change that.

“The first time you met these directors of the big charities, how did you feel about them?” he asked me.

“Well,…” I had to admit, “they seemed like nice, normal people at first, but…” I was eager to explain what I had uncovered about them later.

“Don’t rush to conclusions,” the publisher insisted. “Take your time, take the reader on the journey with you, through your experiences and thought process, as you lived them back then” he advised.

Rewriting those characters was the hardest thing I’d ever done. It was tough to describe the first meeting with the three men that would give me nightmares for many decades to come.

It was hard to describe them as I had seen them when I was a naive, 28-year-old: friendly, competent, experienced… It was extremely challenging to dredge up the buried memories of the pleasant things they had said to me during that first meeting. It was confronting to write about how inexperienced I felt next to these impressive men that I had looked up to at the time.

But I realized it was the only path that I could take if I wanted my story to be coherent, realistic, and engaging.

Find the middle ground

Many writers struggle to bring their story to life. Either they splurge too much, too fast, or the build-up of their narrative is too slow, and their readers lose interest. Their characters and dialogues are not lively or realistic enough.

As I wrote and published more books, I learned to manage the pace of the story and to make my characters into real people, with both positive and negative traits. I also learned to liven up my story with direct dialogue and quotes.

Storytelling for authors, speakers, and entrepreneurs

Storytelling is not only for authors. It is also of vital importance to speakers, trainers, and other entrepreneurs.

I used to think that storytelling was only used in fiction books like thrillers or romances. Now I realize that it also has a significant impact on the success and readability of non-fiction books like (auto)biographies and business books. We can learn from both ‘crafts’. Fiction author Barbara shares her success story of how she used non-fiction structure techniques to give her storytelling more body.

Stories are everywhere and – when well told – they are the most valuable asset we have to engage and entertain our audience and to get our message across.

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