How to be a better storyteller…

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a New York Times article about how to become a better storyteller….

Do you know how to tell a good story? When I work with writers, I frequently have to dissuade them from stuffing their articles or blog posts with facts. Instead, they should be relying on stories, because that’s what their readers want to hear or read.

Doubt that advice? Check out a New York Times article on how to be a better storyteller. Even though the piece is aimed at people making speeches, the same strategy should apply to writers. Readers and listeners care about storytelling because it’s essential to our human identity. “Before there was history, there was storytelling,” according to the article. “The stories we tell are how we know who we are.”

I was thinking about storytelling  after reading a blog post forwarded to me by a reader. The post was written by Kerry Patterson, (pictured above), the author of four New York Times bestselling books. I loved his story about May Day and how he learned to celebrate the holiday in the 1950s, even after it had been dismissed — in a burst of cold-war anxiety — as a “Russian” holiday.

Here’s how Patterson wrapped up his story:

As confusing as May Day had been to me, I did know what to do about the cancelled celebration. I turned May the first into a second Mother’s day by giving my mom (not a stranger) wild flowers, while everyone else gave up on the holiday altogether. It would take more than the likes of Nikita Khrushchev to keep me from giving my beloved mother a basket of flowers. A lot more.

My thanks to Melissa Brandon for sharing the Patterson story with me.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on May 14/18.

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