Everyday life is riddled with unexplained oddities, quirks
of human nature and moments of pure absurdity
November is National Novel Writing
Month. This annual, internet-based initiative has been running for
16 years and encourages registered participants to write a 50,000 word
novel (or the first 50,000 words of a longer novel) within the month
of November. Not a day before, not a day after.
This is great encouragement not just for aspiring novelists, but for
everyone. The old cliché that everyone has a novel in them does
contain some truth, as most clichés do. Storytelling has been around
for a long time. From ancient communities gathered around their
campfires to swap legends and histories, right through to the digital
diaries of modern day bloggers the world over, we humans have always
nurtured a deep, almost primal need to tell and listen to stories.
So improving your own storytelling skills certainly has the potential
to give you a leg-up in many, many areas of life, both professional
and personal. And there are more opportunities now for storytelling
than ever before, thanks to the advent of social media.
Good storytelling involves more than just describing a sequence of
events. You can improve your storytelling skills by paying attention
to things that are a bit more abstract, like the tone, texture, style,
exposition and overall shape of the story.
Being a good storyteller also requires you to be observant. Real life
stories are happening all around us every moment of the day, but most
of us will miss them most of the time if we're staring at our phones
or iPads. Look all around you at the subtleties of daily life. Pay
attention to what happens in the gaps between the words and the
moments – the stories are there, everywhere… not exactly hiding, as
they're in plain view. They're just generally overlooked by most of us.
Once you do start to look closer, you'll realise that everyday life
is riddled with unexplained oddities, quirks of human nature and
moments of pure absurdity. The more of these you notice and absorb,
the more intuitive a storyteller you'll become. Tapping into this
undercurrent of comedy and tragedy will provide you with a deeper
insight into how we humans operate and what really motivates
our decisions (it's rarely what we think it is). It will also give you
an arsenal of tasty flourishes that can make an ordinary story into a
great story. And because you've drawn from life, it'll have a ring of
authenticity that's always more interesting than something artificial.
Whether it's a corporate report, a TAFE assignment, a blog entry,
Facebook post, a tweet or even just describing your weekend to a
friend or colleague, improving your storytelling skills will be no
burden to carry. National Novel Writing Month understands this. And
although it's given the world some well-known published works like
Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern's
The Night Circus, the objective of National Novel Writing
Month is more about enthusiasm, determination and the value of having
an actual deadline. And about looking closer.
Image courtesy of SamuelLopes