Gathered all my best articles on storytelling techniques onto one web page
The great masters of plot create dramatic moments that multi-
Stories in which each moment means only one thing are usually not particularly involving as they do not reflect the complexities of real life. Further, with single appreciation moments, there is only one way to appreciate a story. But the great masters of storytelling include so many multi appreciation moments that each time a book is re-
Each trip through the story opens new insights, provides new experiences, and reveals new surprises as new interpretations and understandings are exposed every time through the journey.
So, to keep your story, be it novel, screenplay, stage play, or even song ballad from being a one-
Excerpted from: 50 Sure-Fire Storytelling Tricks!
Read all 50 tips HERE for FREE!
Out of Sequence Experiences (Changing Temporal Relationships)
With this technique, the audience is unaware they are being presented things out of order. Such a story is the motion picture, Betrayal, with Ben Kingsley. The story opens and plays through the first act. We come to determine whom we side with and whom we don’t: who is naughty and who is nice. Then, the second act begins. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that this action actually happened before the act we have just seen. Suddenly, all the assumed relationships and motivations of the characters must be re-evaluated, and many of our opinions have to be changed. This happens again with the next act, so that only at the end of the movie are we able to be sure of our opinions about the first act we saw, which was the last act in the story.
Another example is Pulp Fiction in which we are at first unaware that things are playing out of order. Only later in the film do we catch on to this, and are then forced to alter our opinions.
Meaning Reversals (Shifting Context to Change Meaning)
Reversals change context. In other words, part of the meaning of anything we consider is due to its environment. The phrase, guilt by association, expresses this notion. In storytelling, we can play upon audience empathy and sympathy by making it like or dislike something, only to have it find out it was mistaken.
There is an old Mickey Mouse cartoon called Mickey’s Trailer which exemplifies this nicely. The story opens with Mickey stepping from his house in the country with blue skies and white clouds. He yawns, stretches, then pushes a button on the house. All at once, the lawn roll up, the fence folds in and the house becomes a trailer. Then, the sky and clouds fold up revealing the trailer is actually parked in a junkyard. Certainly a reversal from our original understanding.
50 Sure-Fire Storytelling Tricks available on Amazon.com
Trick 2: Red Herrings (Changing Importance)
Red herrings are designed to make something appear more or less important than it really is. Several good examples of this technique can be found in the motion picture The Fugitive. In one scene a police car flashes its lights and siren at Dr. Kimble, but only to tell him to move along. In another scene, Kimble is in his apartment when an entire battalion of police show up with sirens blazing and guns drawn. It turns out they were really after the son of his landlord and had no interest in him at all. Red herrings can inject storytelling tension where more structurally related weaving may be lethargic.
50 Sure-Fire Storytelling Tricks is available on Amazon.com
This first technique holds audience interest by slowly revealing the true size of something over the course of the story until it can finally be seen to be either larger or smaller than it originally appeared. This makes things appear to grow or diminish as the story unfolds.
Conspiracy stories are usually good examples of increasing scope, as only the tip of the iceberg first comes to light and the full extent is ultimately much more extensive. The motion picture All The President’s Men illustrates this nicely. Stories about things being less far-reaching or important than they originally appeared are not unlike The Wizard Of Oz in which a seemingly huge network of power turns out to be just one man behind a curtain.
This Storytelling Trick
was excerpted from:
Here’s a short one… A person talking is often boring. People arguing are often compelling. If you have to drop exposition, try to do it in the back and forth barbs of an argument. Let the characters use the information you need to convey as barbs in their back and forth attacks. Then your story won’t grind to a halt just because you need to tell your audience something.
50 Sure-Fire Storytelling Tricks!
By Melanie Anne Phillips
The old expression, “A Red Herring,” means something that is intentionally misleading. In screenplays, a red herring is a scene, which is set up intentionally to mislead an audience.
One example is in the movie, “The Fugitive,” with Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble. He escapes from the prison bus, gets some street clothes, and is on the run.
He waits under a bridge and when an associate that he worked with stops his car for a red light, Kimble steps out and pretends to be a homeless person trying to wash his windshield for a buck. He uses this action as a “cover” while he holds a conversation with the associate to get some information and help.
In the background, out of focus, a police car slowly approach behind the associate’s car. You don’t see it at first because you are concentrating on the conversation. The police car stops. Suddenly, it’s lights and siren comes on. The audience is sure the jig is up. Kimble turns to look at it, and the police car whips around the associate’s car and takes off for some call it received.
The initial impression was that Kimble was about to be recaptured because the cops had recognized him. The “reality” was that they were just on patrol, got a call, and sped off with sirens wailing.
Red Herrings can be used for anything from the momentary shock value as above, to making a bad guy appear to be a good guy.
To make it work, you have to do two primary things:
1. Don’t leave out essential information or the audience will feel manipulated. Tricking your audience by misleading them is fun for them. But if you fool them by leaving out information they would legitimately have expected to be told about, then you are just screwing with them.
Red herrings are best accomplished by having information that is taken in one context and then the context is changed. This way, you aren’t holding back, you are just changing the perspective.
Your audience invests its emotions in your story. You don’t want to violate them. As an example, there is an old joke about a nurse in a maternity ward who comes in to a mother’s room carrying the new baby. She trips and falls and the baby hits the floor. Then, she gets mad at it for falling, picks it up, swings it around and bashes it against the wall. The mother is in hysterics. The nurse picks up the kid and says, “April Fool – it was born dead.” Don’t do this to your audience.
A better approach is to see a mom yank her child by the arm in a very abusive way while walking down the street. First reaction is she is an ogre and you run to stop her. Just then, you see the truck come whipping around the corner that would’ve hit and killed the child, and you stop in your tracks realizing the mom was saving his life. You look again, and the is hugging and holding him, and she is crying because he was almost lost, and because she startled him. Psychologists call it “Primary Attribution Error,” and you can use it to your advantage. If done properly, they will love you for it.
2. Don’t change the rules of the game just to make things happen another way or the audience will feel that you lied to them.
The audience will give you their trust. They expect that what you tell them is the truth. They build on each bit of information, trying to understand the big picture.
You can easily change context to show something in a different light, but don’t tell them one thing and then simply say, “Oh that wasn’t true, I was just messing with you.”
That is a sure way to lose their trust, and once lost, you’ll never get it back.