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The Art of Storytelling

Storytelling is an art form that has been around for thousands of years. It’s a way for people to share their experiences, beliefs, and values with others. Good storytelling forges emotional connections with the audience. The most powerful stories make the audience feel something, be it joy, sadness, fear, or excitement. To create this emotional connection, the storyteller must use a variety of techniques, such as

The art of storytelling image

1. Characterization

Characterization is creating believable, relatable characters with clear motivations, desires, and flaws. Your characters are people your readers will come to know and care about as they drive the action of your story forward. There should also be a clear arc of change in the character(s) throughout the story.

2. Plot

The sequence of events that make up a story, a good plot has a clear beginning, middle, and end, with a clear conflict and resolution.

3. Setting

The setting is the place and time in which a story takes place. It should also add to a story’s atmosphere and mood.

4. Dialogue

Dialogue is the conversation that takes place between characters. It should be natural, believable, and reveal the characters’ personalities, emotions, and motivations.

5. Literary devices and descriptive language

Storytelling uses literary devices like symbolism, metaphor, and imagery, used to add depth and meaning to a story making it more memorable.

The language you use in your story is what brings it to life. Descriptive language uses vivid word pictures to help your readers visualize the world in which your story takes place. Use descriptive language to build layers in your story. This includes using symbolism (when an object or element is used to represent something else), metaphors (writing about one thing and describing it as if it were something else), and other literary devices to add depth and meaning to your story.

6. Balance showing and telling

The art of storytelling also finds a balance between showing and telling. Showing is when the storyteller describes what happens as the actions unfold (including thoughts and dialogue) while telling is when the storyteller simply gives information to state what is happening. Showing provides insight into the characters’ inner worlds of thought and emotion; telling lacks the same depth.  

Storytelling conclusion

The key to a great story is the ability to create an emotional connection with the audience, and with the proper techniques, you can create stories that will stay with your readers long after they’ve finished reading.

Hooking Readers with Strong Opening Pages

boy reading a book

When it comes to writing a novel, short story, or even a blog post, the first pages are critical. The first few sentences need to hook the reader in, making them eager to read more. Without this, you run the risk of turning off the reader. The danger is that they might put down the book and move on to something else. If in doubt as to the power of a strong opening, consider these iconic lines:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” –Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” –F. Scott  Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” –Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 

How to write strong opening pages

Keep it interesting from the start

Your opening should be strong and interesting. It doesn’t need to be action-packed or filled with suspense to grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading. One way to do this is to start with a question or a statement that piques the reader’s curiosity. For example, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” makes the reader wonder what is going on. “When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow” might cause the reader to question how he broke his arm and want to read what happens next.

Begin with strong imagery

Another way to hook readers is to start with a strong image or vivid description. This could be a description of a character, a setting, or an action. The key is to make it as detailed and evocative as possible. For example, “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun” (Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). This description sets the scene by creating an image in the reader’s mind that draws them in.

Introduce a sense of urgency early on

You can also create a sense of urgency by starting with a problem or a conflict. This could be a character dealing with a personal issue or a group of characters facing a larger problem. For example, “’Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”  This opener establishes a problem that needs to be solved from the first page (a conflict exists because her father holding an axe is unusual occurrence), and it makes the reader want to find out what happens next.

Establish tone from the first page

A strong opening should also establish the tone of the story. You can do this by using specific words and phrases or introducing the characters. For example, “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were” (Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind). This opener establishes that the story is about a popular and beautiful young woman, and her courtship is likely going to figure into it.


A strong opening is crucial if you want to hook readers from the first page. The first page contains some of the most important words of your novel. Don’t neglect the opportunity this valuable real estate presents. When it comes to grabbing and keeping your reader’s attention, take the time to carefully craft your opening pages.