How to Make Your Novel Come Alive with Storytelling

Storytelling is in your blood.

We've been telling stories long before we ever had the written word, and for good reason.

Science has shown that we respond to stories in a way that seems more like magic than science. Our brain activates as if the story is happening to us.

When listening to a story, our brain also dumps dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins depending on what kind of a story is being told.

Stories make usfeel more connected to another person; they can relax us; they can inspire and motivate us; they can make us more focused, and stories can improve memory.

Now these phenomenon occur when we hear a story, see one unfold across a screen, or read one.

But the ancient art of storytelling has much more to offer than reading a novel does. It’s why audiobooks and podcasts have become so popular.

Storytelling evokes more of our senses. Listeners are influenced by the performance of a story through the pauses the author makes, the emphasis given to certain words, voices made to denote certain characters’ characteristics, etc.

You can bring your story to life by learning how to perform your work.

I’m not talking about reading your work, which, if you’ve ever been to a reading, can often be uninspired and downright boring.

This post will show you the value of storytelling and offer 4 tips for bringing your work alive through the art of storytelling.

So even if you’ve never performed anything before, I’m about to show you how.

How to make your novel come to life with storytelling

If you want to captivate your audience, turn your readers into raving fans, and bring your name and books to new heights, you should learn the art of storytelling.

In ancient times, storytellers were often regarded as important figures in a community, and that’s still true today.

Storytelling has value in business and advertising; it is one of the prized abilities of politicians and public speakers; it is the backbone for every television show or movie you binge watch obsessively.

What Storytelling can do for Novelists

If you only have one book written and you’d like to add another sales point to your marketing strategy, consider the art of storytelling as a way to help you create a compelling, wonderful audiobook you can market to your audience of old readers and new.

If you’re booking “readings” you’ll have more novelty if you market yourself as a storyteller who doesn’t simply read stale words off a page, but brings them to life in a performance.

If you want to build your audience through youtube or social media, consider performing bits of your story to captivate your social media audiences and make them beg for more with short teasers of your work.

Are you ready to put storytelling to work for you? Here’s how you can bring your stories to life through the tried and true practice of storytelling.

Get Inspired

It won’t do to just “decide” to start telling stories. You have to get a feel for them. Just like you wrote your first novel after reading tons of other people’s work, you should familiarize yourself with other storytellers so you can see the myriad forms and styles storytelling can take.

Watch youtube videos of famous (and not so famous) storytellers to learn what style you like.

You can also learn about what not to do from people who fail to captivate you with their stories.

You can also scour youtube for advice from storytellers on how to perform better stories, or how to create characters with your voices, etc.

Here are some absolutely incredible storytellers who will blow your mind and get you thinking about storytelling in a new way.

Andrew Stanton: The Clues to a Great Story

David JP Philips: The Magical Science of Storytelling


Annotate Your Work

The next step to becoming a master storyteller is to annotate your work. This not only familiarizes you with your own work, but acts more as a script than a story.

Note how you want your voice to sound, if the pace should be building or slowing, if you should pause and give your listeners space for anticipation or processing...this is largely up to you to see what works best.

Tips for annotating your work:

  • Pronunciation

  • Characterization

  • Gestures

  • Pauses

  • Tempo

  • Emphasis

  • Sound effects


Familiarize Not Memorize

Kindra Hall, a storytelling master and teacher suggests you don’t memorize your story. But wait! You ask. How will I be able to tell my story without reading if I don’t memorize it?!

Well the problem with memorization, Kindra warns, is that when you’re telling something exactly as you’ve memorized it, you’re simply telling the words, which can come across as stale and flat. Because you’re so wrapped up in what words to tell you’re less concerned about how to tell them.

And this creates a big problem too -- if you draw a blank.

So instead of memorization, use familiarization. (<< Tweet that.)

Become so familiar with your story you don’t need the text to tell it, but instead of simply repeating by rote memorization, you can become inspired, leave room for improvisation, and adjust the telling of your story depending on your audience’s mood.

To familiarize yourself with your story you must do the last thing on the list:


Practice Practice Practice

One of the most truthful adages of them all is: “practice makes perfect.”

Practice telling your story to yourself.

Practice telling your story to your mirror.

Practice telling your story to your seven cats.

Practice telling your story to every one of your friends.

Practice telling your story a complete stranger (if you can convince them to listen).

And when you’ve done all that, practice performing your stories to audiences again and again.

And this is how you become a master storyteller and captivate your audiences.

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