Become a Great Storyteller

You may be a good writer, but how do you become an even better storyteller? NBC News NOW anchor Joe Fryer shares tips on creating compelling storytelling, breaking down one of his broadcast stories to show various ways of improving news narratives.

Elements of great storytelling

  • Logging video – When working on a broadcast story, screen and transcribe your video to highlight the best soundbites. Note the subjects’ facial expressions and emotions to better write these moments into your script.
  • Focus statement – What do you want the story to convey to the audience?
  • Theme – This acts like a thread for your story. Include similar references in the beginning, middle and end of your story to tie it together.
  • Outline – Write an outline for your script to figure out how you want to start and where you want to include soundbites and transition moments.
  • Opening line – A creative opening line helps grab people’s attention.
  • Slow reveal – An excellent feature story should grab and hold your attention from beginning to end. A great storyteller does not put all the best moments and characters at the beginning of the story. Instead, they reveal things throughout the piece.
  • Objective information – What are the facts? What is the name of the event? When does it happen? What are the rules for the event? This is better conveyed through voice-over rather than soundbites.
  • Soundbites – These usually contain subjective information, opinion, emotion and great moments. A soundbite in a feature story can also be funny or share something that will make the viewer laugh and think.

Some quick tools for storytelling

  • Alliteration: – A series of words in a row beginning with the same letter , like the “bouncing baby boy.”
  • Rhyming words – Use sparingly, so your writing does not sound gimmicky.
  • “Rule of three” – When listing things in your script, two items sometimes do not feel like enough and four feels like too many.

Tips to become a better storyteller

  • Find people whose work you like and study it. Watch it and write out their scripts to see how they do it.
  • Read as much as you can: fiction, nonfiction, magazines and newspapers are good places to start.
  • Always ask for feedback in your work. There’s always something you can learn.