It’s all in the phrasing

In my high-school workshops a couple weeks ago, I talked a lot about the techniques we use when we’re telling stories to friends.

We start with a great hook: “Did I ever tell you about the time I was trapped in the mall?”

We include dialogue:
Then I was like, “No way.”
And she was all like, “Way.”

We set a mood: humour, or suspense, or action.

These are sometimes thought of as the techniques of fiction, yet we’re telling (reportedly) true stories. And if we can retain these storytelling techniques when we translate our tales onto the page, non-fiction becomes much more interesting.

Of course, when you teach a workshop, you always gain something in return. In this case, I discovered that one should never say “oral storytelling” to a group of 15-year-olds. Just say “storytelling.”

Lesson learned.