Get Real: 3 Tips for Telling More Authentic Stories

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As anyone who’s taken my classes will tell you, I’m a huge fan of Nick Kroll.  Kroll is a funny guy: he’s regular on Parks and Recreation, he’s toured as a stand-up with Aziz Ansari, and he has a recurring role on Children’s Hospital on Adult Swim.  But aside from his character and stand-up work, Kroll is an amazing storyteller.  How does he make his stories both funny and poignant?

It all comes down to authenticity.  

To help you tell more genuine and compelling tales on stage or on the page, here are “3 Tips for Telling More Authentic Stories”.  Follow these tips and you’ll be wowing crowds before you know it.  You may even get your own TV show in the process.

1.  Make it personal.  All great stories are personal, meaning that you (the storyteller) have a stake in telling the story.  The stakes don’t need to be big (i.e. life and death) in order for the story to be significant.  However, the higher the stakes, the more invested the audience will be in the outcomeOne quick way to uncover stakes in a story is to answer the question: What does the central character stand to gain or lose as a result of dealing with the problem?  If the answer is “nothing,” or “not much,” you probably need to investigate further.   High stakes don’t automatically make for a story good, but they’ll help you capture your audience right away.  

2.  Use lots of details. Specificity is the essential to making your story resonate, so be generous with detail.  The first time you tell or write a story, be overly specific.  Use visual language to paint a picture of the setting, characters, and problem for the audience.  Once you’ve done this, it’ll be easy to edit the piece down to a more manageable length.  The more generous you are with yourself, the more generous the audience will be with both you and your story.

3. Be honest.  Part of Nick Kroll’s appeal as a performer is his willingness to be honest with both himself and his audience.  Honesty goes a long way in storytelling: if people sense that you’re revealing something true about yourself, they’ll support you as a performer.  On the other hand, if you try to manipulate or lie to your audience, you’ll quickly find yourself at the mercy of an angry mob.  It may seem convenient to lie in the moment, but it’s always better to be truthful in the long run.  You’ll feel better about yourself in the moment and you’ll avoid nasty encounters with fans down the line.

Pretty real, right?

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