The Art of Storytelling

A lot of the people I know have no clue how to tell a story. It’s honestly shocking. Stories, and the ability to communicate them are what make us human.


The people I’ve talked to about language have shown dismissive feelings toward the subject. They don’t outright say this to me, in fact, I think many of them have convinced themselves that they care about prose, but I can hear it in their way of speech. Everyone fills their sentences with nothing-words like “uh” and “like” or phrases like “low-key” and “to be honest.” I do this too, though I fill my speech with cursing. 


The books we are forced to read in school are often boring and plainly written. The Outsiders is a fine book, but not so fine that everyone in America should be forced to read it. And yes, the reading is forced, as it likely should be, but forcing anyone to do anything will leave the victim sour.


You need to appreciate writing to tell a good story, and because we all resent writing, no one knows how to tell a story. It gets tedious hearing the same kind of delivery: atonal and meandering. Your story would be told just as well by a text-to-speech bot. Writing should be taught by two authors: for language, Ernest Hemingway, and for tone, Kurt Vonnegut.


Ernest Hemingway would write long-winded and meandering first drafts, only to later go through what he wrote with white-out, removing all that is inessential to the text–the “likes” and “uhs,” if you will. Stories should be told thoughtfully. There is little room in anyone’s life for unrelated tangents or filler. 


Read any Vonnegut book and it’ll feel like Vonnegut is in the room with you, telling the story himself. He’s funny and has a compelling tone in his delivery. He knows how to entertain, and stories are a form of entertainment. Don’t bore me. 


I work at Best Buy and process returns. All day I deal with old people (young people have no use for Best Buy. They know how to use Google). They start by telling me the whole story, from when they purchased the item to when they found out about its problem to them walking into the store. These stories end with a simple sentence: “I’d like to return it.” Why did I just sit through the most boring and obnoxious story only to learn that it could be summarized in a single sentence! You are not important to me at all! I don’t care about you or your broken product! You’re just holding up the line! You aren’t the only person in existence at the moment! This is born of vanity.

Vanity is the Devil’s favorite sin. It’s so easy to love your story, but it’s hard to make other people care. Your listener doesn’t care about the little details. White-out your story.


Also, not every story needs to be told. Just because you love it doesn’t mean it has any relevance to the conversation at hand. Stories should never come from nowhere. They need to relate to the topic of a conversation. I’ve heard so many nothing stories, it’s absurd. Just shut up! I don’t care about the time you saw a weird-looking dude at work!


I am not above these problems, of course. To err is human, or whatever.


Anyway, moral of the story: read more, speak better, and get over yourself. It’s for my sake really. I cannot keep listening to your nonsense.