How to Tell Stories. Part 5.
Monday, April 27, 2009 at 4:43PM
ZenBandit in Brian Andreas, child mind, how to tell a story, how to tell stories, imagination

Like I've said earlier, there are only a few things you need to know to tell good stories. What's more, each of the things you need to know doesn't require a whole lot of explanation. That's why each part is really short. When they're all done & I mash them up together into a single book with tidy chapters & all, it's still going to be a really short.

I just want you to know that I COULD write a really long book if I wanted, if that makes you feel better. I'd even have footnotes & quotations from famous people, both living & dead. I may do that. I'll give it a name like Contemporary Mythology: Support & Theoretical Justifications. Or A Complete Theory of Oral Narrative. Something undeniably academic. It will sell a hundred copies, mainly to libraries. It will not help you tell your own story. 

I have changed my mind. I'm only going to do the short version, because I, like everyone else who's listening to you when you start to tell a story, have a short attention span.

That brings us to Rule #5. Tell your story to the children in the audience

Hold on, you say. First, I'm an important person. I DON'T TELL STORIES TO CHILDREN IF I CAN HELP IT. How often am I going to be in a situation where I can use that?

My answer to you? Every single time you tell a story. Understanding what that means leads to a quite astonishing conclusion: no matter what your audience looks like, or how impressive their resumes, you are telling your story to children. (It might take you a while to see this. In my experience, the ONLY people worth telling stories to are children. Don't get all worked up here. IT'S A METAPHOR. I've already told you somewhere else that I don't really tell stories to actual children, so it's obviously not all that necessary to have a little person sitting at your feet to make it work.)

You see, adults have too many years of being told things like sit up straight. Be quiet. Wait your turn. Adults know how to be polite. (Whether they actually do it is another story. That topic will be covered in my How to Be Polite guide coming out later next year.. :-))

But kids don't care. They want to be amazed. They want to fly & explore dark caves & discover lost things. They want good guys & bad guys (& they oh so want to be the good guys in the end). They want romance & battles & treasure. They want magic. 

So, it's simple. Tell it to the children in the audience. Make it about them. You can't go wrong...

with love, Brian

Article originally appeared on Zen Bandit: Brian Andreas. Art. Stories. Life (
See website for complete article licensing information.