Personal Stories – How To Get Better At Storytelling

Mostly True Memoirs

Want to know how to get better at storytelling?

Mostly True Memoirs

How to get better at storytelling

How To Get Better At Storytelling

Want to know how you can get better at storytelling?

I’ll tell you.

In three parts:

  • How to generate new ideas
  • How to write personal stories
  • How to be a better storyteller

How To Generate New Ideas

“You’ve got a story for every occasion,” I often hear.

It’s true.

I do.

It comes from a lifelong habit of observing.

I’m always watching.

And I take notes.

I write down what I see and what I hear.

And then I create stories from my notes.

Some stories are hilarious on their own.

Other stories aren’t funny until you collect a few on the same topic, and then you realize there’s a trend.

My advice to you?

Keep a journal.

Write everything down.

The smaller the feature, the better.

Humor is in the details.

Look for the little elements of a situation.

See how one thing is like another.

Or how one thing is so very different from another.

Your first journal stories might not be very revealing.

That’s OK.

Keep writing.

Keep observing.

Keep journaling.

Your stories will come together with practice.

How To Write Personal Stories

This one’s hard.

You don’t want to share too much personal information online.

You don’t want to embarrass or shame your family.

You need to develop some standards to measure against each story.

For example, I don’t identify my children.

I just call them both “The Grown Son.”

I don’t want to embarrass them.

I don’t want to divulge their personal information.

I don’t want to create any bad feelings within the family.

When I write stories about my husband, I make sure to always depict him as a devoted family man and a pillar of the community.

If a story doesn’t meet that standard, I won’t publish it.

I’ll poke gentle fun at him, but if a story would tarnish his good reputation, it’s not a story that will get posted.

If I wouldn’t want that story posted about me, I won’t post it about him.

Regarding my friends, I make a point to be vague.

Some people don’t want to be all over the internet.

I get it.

I keep my stories about friends and colleagues very generalized.

They know if the story is about them, and they are free to comment and join the conversation.

Or not.

I’m very aware of other people’s privacy.

How To Get Better At Storytelling

It’s easy to have that idea in your head.

It’s very difficult to put it into writing.

I have three recommendations for how to be a better storyteller.

1. Don’t Edit and Write at the Same Time

Just write that first draft.

I call it the vomit draft.

Just vomit the words onto the paper.

That’s your first draft.

From there, you can edit it into something workable.

So often, people will be stuck trying to draft the perfect first line.

The problem is that you can’t draft a first line until you have the rest of the story to draw from.

I don’t compose the first line until after I’ve written the story.

A great way to wrap up a story is to circle the closing line back to the opening line.

For example, if you write a bit about oranges, your first line might be, “Who doesn’t love oranges?” and your closing line might be, “That’s why I love oranges.”

You have to write the piece out to know what you’re dealing with before you can write those brilliant opening and closing lines.

2. Cut Your Word Count

After you’ve written your vomit draft, cut your wordcount by half.


In half.

You’ve heard that if you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny.

The same thing applies to stories.

If you have to over-explain your scenario, then it’s not working.

Get to the point and get there quickly.

Don’t use a ten-dollar word when a ten-cent word would do.

If you have to quibble over the grammar, find a simpler way to say it.

Cut out as many adjectives, adverbs, and dialogue tags as you can.

Your story will have so much more impact if it is told with fewer but more powerful words.

3. Don’t Try Too Hard To Be Funny

Subtle Humor Is Funnier Than a Pie In the Face

If you write a story about a crazy person who is in an outrageous situation and something outlandish happens to them, that’s overkill.

It’s not funny.

Instead, take a regular person and put them in a regular situation and then have something unusual happen.

It’s the Rule of Three.

Two normal things plus one unusual thing equals a funny situation.

It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Keep It Clean

Foul language and edgy topics get old quickly.

They’re good for one laugh.

Maybe two.

After that, you lose your audience.

You’ll might get one big laugh with the dirty stuff.

But it doesn’t have staying power.

Some of the big-named comedians can pull it off.

But most of us aren’t celebrities.

Most of us can’t pull off the dirty stuff day after day after day.

Keep it clean, and write with substance rather than shock value.

Don’t Be Mean

It’s hard, sometimes, to resist the urge to stick it to somebody.

But don’t do it.

Being mean says more about the writer than it does about the subject.

It says that you are petty and vindictive and unlikeable.

Don’t do it.

Make your jokes self-deprecating.

When you make fun of yourself, you are humble, friendly, and real.

This is an engaging quality for any storyteller.

Just be careful not to overdo it.

You want your audience to laugh with you.

 But you don’t want your audience to pity you.

How To Get Better At Storytelling

So there you have it.

This is how I generate new ideas.

This is how I write personal stories.

This is how to get better at storytelling.

Now it’s your turn.

Look around you.

Take notes.

Create some fabulous stories.

Let me know when they’re ready, I’d love to read them!

Liz Brenner

Liz Brenner

Reader. Writer. Teacher. Speaker. Blogger.

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