Many readers of my blog, and lately also my Instagram followers, have been asking me to write something about storytelling techniques.
I’m obviously flattered and even feel a bit embarrassed, which is often the first mistake made by writers (or wannabe ones): self-censorship, the idea that you are not “good/competent/famous/authoritative/[fill the blank] enough” to talk about a specific topic, as I said more in detail in this post about self-censorship.
Now, let me tell you about what I’ve done to improve my storytelling. I’ll tell you about the way I write and tell about myself, my job, the way I write on this blog in the attempt to raise the interest of as many readers as possible while, at the same time, preserving my identity and constantly having fun writing (I produce 10.000 words a week on average, so at least I’ve got to have fun).
I’ll tell you about a couple of things I mainly learnt in the past two years or slightly less, discussing with other bloggers and storytellers, after writing three novels and increasing my visual storytelling activity on Instagram. Please forgive me for this.
Well yes, because the little pieces of advice I’m about to give you apply to both writing books or blog articles and to the micro blogging activity on social networks.
Cose che amo fare quando viaggio? Leggere i #travelblog e le esperienze di chi ha visto un posto prima di me e farmi un mio itinerario quotidiano basandomi su meteo, distanze e “mood”. E amo farlo durante la colazione ❤. E tu, come fai i tuoi itinerari di viaggio? 🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧 #whenItravel I like designing my #itinerary at #breakfast, reading blog posts by #travelbloggers and creating my way depending on weather, distances and my #moodoftheday. And what about you, how do you create your itinerary?
1 – Listen to your readers
It’s the first thing I’ve done to improve. I’ve realized that many of my readers were particularly mad about some articles like this about travels (with so many comments now that it’s difficult for me reply) or articles about the blogging activity.
You can do it too by analyzing the stories that turn out to be more interesting and understanding what makes them stand out from the others.
Try making a list or ranking of your posts, pictures etc. that were most liked and a list of titles for your next posts that recall the most loved ones.
2 – Make your point clearly
The titles and first lines of a blog post or captation on Instagram/Facebook are important.
I found out that providing answers to clear and simple questions in the title itself is really useful. What many people usually search on Google, to be clear.
Then… be on the ball! That is make sure you’ve actually answered the initial question when you’re done writing.
3 – Speaking of titles, write the title of a post that you would like to read too
If one of your posts is called “My Africa”, it will definitely be a nice quotation from a good book and an interesting article for those who know you well, like mom and dad, and want to find out whether there’s still something they don’t know about your last trip to Africa.
Besides this…you’ll probably end up having less readers interested in your post.
On the contrary, if your post is called (or starts with) “What to know before going to Senegal”, “Which country to choose for you first trip to Africa”, you can reach a wider audience.
4 – Talk to them, about them
From blog posts to novels, people don’t like autobiographies, unless you are a Nobel prize winner who’s about to die, or Britney Spears. Or Britney Spears on her deathbed.
If you want to achieve the level of the award-winning Nobel prize holder or Britney, you first have to talk to other people by taking their interests and experiences into account.
5 – Make questions to your readers (showing interest and not being rhetorical)
If you don’t want to lose track of your readers, try to act the way a good speaker would: ask your listeners questions. Yet, definitely avoid rhetorical questions such as
Nice place, isn’t it? / Don’t you agree? / We all agree, don’t we?
On the other hand, questions like Which destination would you suggest between these two? are way better.
Have you ever been on the verge of committing suicide after being left by someone? How did you get over it? is another good question. Or rather, a great question.
It’s not just that. Asking your readers what they would like you, your blog or your social channels to show/tell them is an idea to pursue.
For instance, doing a survey on Instagram or Facebook is a good way to interact with your followers and ask them what they would like to read the most. Or twitter chats.
6 – Don’t neglect yourself though.
Every time I have to get personal, I freak out…that’s why I never or rarely do it. No need to worry! It’s not necessary to talk about your private life if you want to achieve a personal touch. Besides, everyone has its own different threshold dividing what is private from what it’s not.
Give your readers the part of yourself that you are not afraid to show; keep the rest as your personal identity and for the people who are lucky enough to be close to you every day.
We all have more than one “self”: some are functional screens, while others are parts of ourselves that we prefer to hide from anyone.
You have to feel comfortable when you write, the tone and key you use (irony, poetic and romantic tone, even haughtiness and self-conceit if you like…) are the clothes you choose to wear when speaking to the public.
Some feel comfortable in jeans, whereas others prefer a nice smoked grey suit or a large skirt from the ’50s.
Find your favorite tone and feel free to change it when it doesn’t suit you anymore.
7 – Arrange your thoughts in “blocks”
Thoughts fly free and take shape out of nowhere…and that’s where they risk ending up if you don’t catch them in a consistent and systematic way.
Even swallows follow a geometrical and rational pattern when they fly; give your thoughts the same functional freedom, because that’s the only way they can get far, like the swallows. And just like swallows, they’ll come back to you.
Well, enough now with these silly metaphors and let’s get down to practical examples.
Everyone can do it their own way. My way of arranging thoughts is as follows:
First, I have an idea to develop in a post. I write it down along with all the concepts that I would like to be in the post/story or whatever it is, by dividing the sentences into blocks and paragraphs.
Then, I read them again and try to move the blocks according to their consequential consistency.
For example, the initial scheme of this post was born in 3 blocks:
block 1 – Be clear about your topics
block 2 – talk about yourself
block 3 – don’t forget the others
Yet, after reading block 1 once again, I understood that block 3 immediately followed on from it so I changed the order.
I did the same with the other blocks, some of which can be divided into more blocks, as happened to this post that was initially made of only 7 parts.
8 – Start from the end
Over the years, many people have shared with me their intention to create a blog to be constantly updated or to write a novel, but once they start they are not able to go on after a while.
Whether for a short post or a more complex project, read this post
Then, when it comes to writing, I suggest you start from the end.
From the last chapter or paragraph.
As Seneca used to say, there’s no favourable wind for the sailor who doesn’t know where to go.
Starting from the last word is like working with the end point in mind, just like getting lost in one’s thoughts once the course is set.
That’s it. What would you suggest? Do you have any other idea for me to improve my storytelling, concerning especially Facebook or Instagram (social networks I often have issues with)?