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Can you tell a good story?

Updated on October 5, 2011

What do you think is the difference between some stories you hear or read about and still remember for quite some long time after, and those ones you just hurriedly go through or listen to and the next day, you don’t even recount the details?

Obviously, one is a good story while the other is…worthless, huh?

The ability to tell a good story is a great skill worth possessing. Telling a good story requires the ability of the story teller to carry the listener or reader along to the extent that he will be so reluctant to put the book down, turn off the telly or radio, or even stop listening entirely; in quest to find what happened in the end.

A good story takes you through a ride…a wonderful ride actually!

That is the point. A good story is that story that has the ability to get someone i.e. the audience hooked!

What do you think is the difference between established authors like John Grisham and some other upcoming/unknown writers? You may be tempted to say that the difference lies in the terms established and upcoming but it is more than that.

If you really check it out, you will discover that it is the ability to tell good captivating stories is the differentiation mark between those confirmed writers and the rest. These guys have mastered that rare art of spinning amazing tales that can always capture the imaginations of their audiences anytime. Simply put, these good writers of storytellers know so well how to stoke that human curiosity with their stories.

So the question now is: how can one tell a good story capable of eliciting some emotions from the audience as well as holding and goading him or her till the end?

Let’s take a close look at what can be done.


Stories are all about the characters. The characters used in your stories are those that will bring out all the aspects of the story. Anybody who really wants to spin some good tale should be able to string in some characters with explicitly defined characters with remarkable or characteristic behavior/s. This will go a long way in helping the audience to tune in to the full gist.

Characters in most stories are usually grouped into main and supporting characters and each one should be assigned the proper role/s to justify this categorization.

A good storyteller should be able to covertly and carefully assign or choose the character s/he is in the story because that is what your audience is most likely going to connect you with all those feelings and emotions, albeit unconsciously.


With well defined characters, the next thing is to bring in action. Actions are what give life to the story. A good storyteller should be able to throw in some action mainly concerning what the main character/s did. The actions here should not necessarily mean destruction or blowing up something rather it should be related with how the main characters were able to achieve what they wanted or how something happened to them.

Bottom line: Such actions should be captivating and/or funny enough to make your audience stay tune to find out what really happened as well as learn something in the process.


The juice is in the details. The story should be detailed enough to create an exciting situation whereby you are not telling everything but yet you are not sensing your audience off the track or leave them in guessing mode for such a very long time.

The details should be simple enough to understand yet it shouldn’t be so bland. Allow your audience to figure some of the happenings themselves as this will boost their thinking and imaginations. If they want some explanations, then they will ask for it. Only, then will you know that you have gotten them hooked. It really requires some high level of tact to do this.

Also, the details should be given in such a way that a lively picture is painted in the mind of your listeners and they will use these vivid pictures so created to give your story a larger than life imaginations which is something you really want.

The details of such tales are normally made up of two parts – the buildup and the payoff. The buildup is structured in such a way as to carry the audience along as the journey leading to the climax continues while the payoff is normally the resolution of climax and the proper application of suspense is one sure way of achieving this. If you don’t get any of the part well, I’m afraid, your stories may not stick.


One of the nice things about good stories is the level of generalization introduced. Using words like everybody, everyone, always, all the time, can actually help in creating that feeling of generality in your stories.

Generalization can sometimes help in bringing out the reality of your stories because people already know how your characters should react.

This will enable you to introduce lots and lots of surprising twists in your stories especially when you start making your characters to do the opposite of what is expected because no matter what happens everybody is not always expected the do the same thing all the time.

In this way, you create uniqueness in your characters.

The Audience

Who are you telling these stories? Who is your story meant for? A good knowledge of your audience will surely make your story stick because you will be able to tell it like they really want to hear it.

Your audience can vary. Stories told to children are not expected to have the same effects on teenagers or adults simply because they are of different worlds.

So a good storyteller should be able to judge, adjust and target his or her stories to suit the needs and aspirations of his listening/reading audience.

Logic and Humor

Your stories should be logical enough. By logical, I mean it should be reasonable and practical.

It shouldn’t be that type of stories that deals with aliens whereby the audience is left at the mercy of their own vague imaginations. Proper use of logic can also help in giving your stories the needed sense of direction.

Furthermore, the structure of the story should be organized in such a way to show that the storyteller knows the outcome of his story as this will also save the audience from hanging that terrible hang up feeling.

The place of humor in great stories cannot be overlooked. Humor makes the story sound human because we are always looking out for a good laugh.

The proper use of humor can make all the difference in your stories as people will surely look forward to those humorous moments in your stories.

I don’t know about you but as for me, a good tale that is packed with humor will always make my day!


A good storyteller should be able to avoid the mistakes of making things look so easy for the main character/s. This is simply because people love it when the main character/s face some uphill task as our interest is strictly drawn from finding out how and what these people did to overcome the difficulties and as such make it possible for us the listeners to be able to do likewise should we face the same task or difficulties in our own lives.

Morals/Lessons to be learnt

Most times, if not all the time, that is the point of the story. The morals. The lessons to be learnt.

It is noteworthy that morals does not necessarily mean learning something good because as we all know, learning can be good or bad.

So what are you trying to teach with these stories? Make it practical. Make it real. Make it doable and sooner than later, you have your audience asking for more!

So if you are still in doubts as to why you should always endeavor to make your stories interesting, then I have to leave you with these two true facts. First, people always love good stories, no doubts. Once the story is good, the audience is guaranteed.

But it doesn’t stop there because people love the good storyteller even the more!


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    • Emmyboy profile image

      Emmyboy 6 years ago from Nigeria

      oh yes Mary, common sense is the right word!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for this great advice! Really, it's just common sense, isn't it?

    • lafamillia profile image

      lafamillia 6 years ago from Soutcentral Europe

      Yes, some factors - in general - are needed for a "good story". But we have to take in mind that every person, or maybe not every single, but in general - every one of us have different way of thinking what is good ... or... for example: what is normal. There You have that once good told old phrase "Degustibus non dicutabulus est." , " Taste, is something that you do not discuss. " . Even when it is about Hubs, people have different kinds of taste, and way of seeing what is actually a good Hub for then. For me, a good Hub is a hub that will attract my attention in very first sentences and that will motivate me trough next few to read it all.

      Good and interesting,and keep it that way HUB-BRO :}