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The Beginning, Middle, and End: How to Tell a Story

Jean-Luc Godard once said, “A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order.”

Being in the entertainment industry, whether you’re an actor, a director, or a producer, being able to tell a story is one of the most important skills you should have.

After all, stories are what grabs people and transports them to different times and spaces, allowing them to live vicariously through the lives of the characters.

Still, storytelling takes great skill. Most people ramble and lose their point, or many of them have a hard time gauging interest for the audience to begin with.

According to Forbes, people retain stories longer than they ever would with plain, old, boring data, so if you want to tell one, you have to make sure that you tell it well.

So in case you’re wondering how to tell a tale, here are some essential tips to be able to do so, while connecting with your audience:

Be specific

Know the kind of story that you want to tell. Whether you’re an actor or a director, you should be able to know the details of the stories that you need to tell. Actors, for instance, should discuss with the writers, directors, and other cast members the progress of the stories to make sure they are on the same page.

Alan Rickman, who started playing the character of Severus Snape before all the Harry Potter books were released, knew the fate of his character even before the rest of production did. This is because he spoke with JK Rowling and learned about Snape’s back story and his bigger role in the wizarding world.

Follow structure

Godard had the right idea when he said that stories should have the three essential parts. In the beginning, introduce the characters and indicate in which direction the story is supposed to go.

In the middle, include interesting events, maybe some obstacles. These are the things that great stories are made of.

Finally, stitch events together at the end and make sure that the story ends with a concluding scene to the story, or a cliffhanger to get people waiting for the next one.

Good stories don’t have to be complicated, but your audience do have to know why you’re telling them to begin with. So make sure that you structure it around a purpose – to state a moral, to connect with someone, or find a common reference point.

Don’t go for perfect

There is no one perfect way to tell a story. In fact, perfect characters and perfect plots make for boring stories. Similar to what Leo Tolstoy said in the first line of Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This is why we rarely ever read or watch stories made of perfect families with perfect lives.

People are enraptured by stories that are vulnerable and honest. They want to connect with the characters by their struggles and how to overcome them. Speaking of struggles . . .

Don’t forget conflict and tension

If you’re not too familiar with the two, conflict occurs when a character meets an obstacle they are going to struggle with, while tension is the stress or pressure of the story that is released by the climax. It is important for tension to be progressive as you tell the story because if the tension doesn’t build or is released too early, then your story will fail.

Pay attention to details

To tell a story more effectively, give the audience the information they need to be able to get a visual and for them to appreciate the story even more. This means that you have to describe your character, locations, and events. Beware of being too descriptive, though, it might bore your audience in the long run.

Jazz it up and let it go

The thing with stories is that they are like liquid—they change each time you tell them, so after all the preparations are through, let yourself go and act as you should in that moment. This is why different actors in theaters have different interpretations of the same characters.

It takes great skill to be able to tell stories that people want to hear, so don’t be afraid to go ahead and tell them.

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