Michael Burns © 2017

Gifts in Storytelling

April 17, 2017

 

What is a gift in true storytelling and why is it awesome?  If you've taken my workshop or read any of my books then you know how much I love gifts in non-fiction stories. A storytelling gift is when you teach the audience one thing throughout the course of a story. And by the way, when I say story I have in mind a live, personal story, but this applies to other kinds of storytelling as well. A gift is usually as aside-- meaning that it could be taken out and not affect the story at at all. It's a real fact having to do with history, science, pop culture, or literally any other topic that provides a fascinating detail about something. Think or a gift as starting with the phrase, "Many people don't realize..." or something along those lines. If you're thinking trivia, then yes and no. A gift can be trivia but the best gifts are things that you've always wanted to know or that you immediately file away to tell a friend as soon as you can.

 

By the way, the limit on gift in a person story is one. In a written story one per chapter (or even less) is a good rule of thumb. Why is that? Any more than one and the storyteller comes across as a know-it-all and a little bit of a lecturer, which is not ideal. Of course everything depends on the nature of the story being told. A non-fiction story might need gifts for one reason or another. They might be critical to the story. In fiction we see this all the time: consider Dan Brown for example where the gimmick of the story is based on gifts. So while we see if in fiction a lot in non-fiction there's an art to delivering a gift. And just like spice on food, adding a little can make it better and adding too much can kill the taste.

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