The art of storytelling. It’s well known that storytelling is a basic need of human nature…has been since humans could draw stories on the cave walls. But why is it that some people are better than others at the craft? Even back in the caveman days, there was one Neanderthal whose cave wall was better than everyone else’s. Other cave dwellers would flock to his cave for story time, and why? Well, some humans can weave a tale better than others. They are better storytellers. Period.
We all love different kinds of stories; some folks love mysteries and the who-done-it; or horror stories that go bump in the night; while others prefer warm and fuzzy romances or the magic of fantasy fiction. And while every story genre isn’t for everyone, the basic story itself and its components are. Storytelling, at its core, is pure art. And those who have mastered that art get put on a pedestal of sorts. What do these folks up on the pedestal know that we don’t? While storytelling may be a basic part of our human existence, it doesn’t mean that skill is easy for everyone. Some excel at the storytelling part, while others prefer just to listen and soak it in. Some are better at telling stories visually, while others are masters at the written word.
Every famous storyteller has different opinions and ways of organizing and unfolding their story. But all these gifted weavers seem to come from the same place of basic storytelling principles, each with their own expertise in different areas. And it’s more than just the beginning, middle, and the end. Take Walt Disney, who was a master at using details to create an over-the-top experience; if you’ve ever been immersed in one of his films or theme parks, you understand the attention to detail. Or how about the Grimm Brother’s fairy tales – talk about immersing yourself into the story – their stories were full of witches, demons and assorted wicked stepmothers, and basically reflected life in the 18th century. And life wasn’t exactly easy in Central Europe around this time – religious leaders forced the Grimm Brothers to modify their tales, making them less gory and violent. But, let’s face it, life isn’t easy, and it can be gory and violent. Some classic favorites from the Grimm’s include Snow White, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood. Or take a master storyteller from the current generation, Stephen King. King is best at taking our darkest fears and bringing them out into the light of day….And that doesn’t make them any less scary.
Instead of listing out categories and bullet points on why these legends are great storytellers, and what you need for a great story, we thought we’d share their actual wisdoms, their actual quotes, on the art. It’s much more fun to read, and frankly, then we get the wisdoms directly from their own mouth. They all knew the “secret” to storytelling, which isn’t a secret at all. Tell a good story – tell it well – and the people listening or reading or watching – will care about it.
“If I can’t find a theme, I can’t make a film anyone else will feel. I can’t laugh at intellectual humor. I’m just corny enough to like to have a story hit me over the heart.” – Walt Disney
“All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” – Leo Tolstoy
“There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story…don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words – the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.” – Stephen King
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” – Sue Monk Kidd
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” – Rudyard Kipling
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” – Brandon Sanderson
“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms” – Muriel Rukeyser
“What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events affect us.” – Rabih Alameddine
“Artists use lies to tell the truth. Yes, I created a lie. But because you believed it, you found something true about yourself.” – Alan Moore
“When someone is mean to me, I just make them a victim in my next book.” – Mary Higgins Clark
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” – Joan Didion
“To hell with facts! We need stories!” – Ken Kesey
“There is something in us, as storytellers and listeners to stories, that demands the
redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.” – Flannery O’Connor
“It had been starling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up themselves like grass.” – Eudora Welty
“A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” – Graham Greene
“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” – John Green
“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you want you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” – Patrick Rothfuss
“The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.” – Henry Green
“Every great love starts with a great story…” – Nicholas Sparks
“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” – Erin Morgenstern
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” – Philip Pullman