The Art and Heart of Storytelling
Telling stories is one of humankind’s abiding, defining impulses.
The cave paintings at Lascaux in France and the Aboriginal wall paintings in Australia’s Kakadu National Park are very early examples of this—of people trying to make sense of their experience, and trying to share the sense they make.
So when you become a travel storyteller, you’re tapping into one of the deepest and richest veins of the human experience.
For me, the fundamental art in storytelling is focus. And the art of focus has two layers.
The first is the experiential one. As I’ve said before, in order to write deeply, you have to live deeply. This means that your primary mission as a storyteller is to see keenly, taste keenly, hear keenly, smell keenly, feel keenly.
The second layer in the art of focus is evoking your experience vividly through carefully selected details that elucidate the points you’re trying to convey to your reader. Details such as these are the building blocks of any story.
Beyond these steps, you should strive to give your experience a larger context. Ask yourself: What’s this all about? What’s the meaning here?
Truly great stories succeed in extracting meaning from the everyday.
They are also the record of two corresponding journeys: a journey in the outer world and a journey in the inner world. And the travel writer’s story is built upon the interplay between these worlds and journeys.
This, of course, is not a license for self-indulgence. Great storytelling is not about length; it’s about saying precisely what needs to be said, in precisely as many words as are needed to say it. Your anecdotes and examples must always be in the service of your point. And your story must have a point—a lesson. It should answer the question: What did I learn, and how did I learn it?
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