2 min read

Notes on storytelling

This past week in Ultraspeaking has been about storytelling. I struggled with this, but I think I'm finally starting to get the hang of reliving moments (see also: video example) with help and examples from the coaches (thanks Aman, Santosh!). Some notes from my perspective:

  1. Find the joy of irrelevance. Try telling a story that doesn't seem directly relevant to the game's prompt. Find something you want to talk about and who cares if you can tie it back if it's a good story. Forget about that for now.
  2. Feelings first, not facts. Don't tell anything dubious, but don't agonize too much about whether you remember the exact details correctly. Nobody's counting. The feelings can do the heavy lifting; the facts are there as the skeleton for the rest.
  3. Watch out for commentary or narration. Anything retrospective, like "I didn't know this at the time, but..." Or: "Now I think that..." This is inherently taking me out of the moment because I'm talking about the moment from after the fact.
  4. Watch out for tangents. Specifically: While I'm telling one story and speaking I need to watch out that I don't autocomplete myself into another story. I need to go deep on my stories rather than wide — so it is better that I stick with one instead of wandering off.
  5. Watch out for statements. This often comes up for me when I'm talking about something that I read or watched — a moment in a book or a TV show or a movie. I can tell a story about the way I experienced that moment, but not if I'm too busy describing the moment to talk about my experience of it.
  6. On a similar note, watch out for abstracts. I found this happens a lot with emotions. Sad, happy, etc. The trouble is that these are so abstract they don't have any texture to them. I want to pull more texture from my memories. It helps find the energy, keep me on track, and makes the story more interesting.

For a lot of these I say watch out, because I'm not saying "don't do 'em." On that I have no strong opinion. But I found it useful to be aware of them. Noticing these things in the moment gives me the choice of if I want to go that direction. As mentioned in this list, I need to learn to go deep on stories, and so the things I'm watching out for reflect that.