Learn how to tell an interesting story... or make a boring story interesting!


Hi there. Welcome back to engVid with me, Benjamin. Today we are looking at the art

of storytelling. Who is this useful to? Well, you may find that in an interview situation,

being able to tell a good story could help you, as long as it's appropriate to the interview;

also, IELTS speaking, being able to sort of go beyond yourself and say more than you normally

would is going to benefit you in terms of sounding fluent; and also, conversational,

social skills - it's good to be able to tell a story.

Now, what I'm going to be sharing with you today has taken me a lot of time, a lot of

experience to figure out the truth of this, and I've basically worked out that this is

right. Okay? So, two parts in today's lesson: We've got basic storytelling; and then if

you want to be clever clogs, you can add in the extra elements.

So, a basic story has what Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, came up with 2,000 years

ago. It has three consistent things: It talks about place-okay?-it happens in a place; it

happens at a time, a certain time; and there are characters involved. And these should

be smooth. He talked about how we should have a clear story idea, it happens in time order.

So this relates to us today telling a good story. Okay? It should happen at a certain

point. We need to know where, okay? Place, setting, similar idea. Which characters do

you have in the story? A plot - there's got to be a reason for telling it: "Is it an unusual

story? Is it funny? Is it interesting?" What's the ending? You don't want to leave your audience,

going: "Oh", at the end of the story. You've got to think: "This story has got to have

a good ending." Okay? Otherwise you leave them with not a very good feeling. Okay.

So, if I'm going to demonstrate this, I will tell you a story. So, the time that this took

place. So this was last summer, and the place: I was trying to get to the airport. I was

trying to get to Gatwick Airport, just outside of London. To set the scene a bit, we've got

a friend's wedding happening in Italy. Taking my son and wife on a flight out to Italy.

Very important that we get there, lots of friends there, and traffic starts piling up

and it starts getting quite tight - the time. Are we going to get on the plane or not?

Okay, so now we need to include some more plot elements. So, what was unusual is that

I told my wife: "Look, if we carry on like this, we're not going to catch the plane."

So we swapped over, and she started driving down the hard shoulder. It's not about your

shoulder; it means the side bit of the road that you're not really meant to drive on.

And kind of the funny bit is that we got through this horrendous traffic on the most nasty...

The nastiest road in the U.K., which is the M25, which is more sort of sitting around

than actually driving anywhere. We got through this nasty traffic. It looked like we were

going to catch the flight, and then we ran out of petrol 10 miles from the airport. Fortunately,

we did manage to get onto the flight eventually, after a few more mishaps. Okay? So we've got

a rough story there, which I can now make quite a lot better by adding in these elements.

First of all, if you're sat around with a group of people, you don't just suddenly start

telling a story, and you shouldn't really plan what stories you're going to tell. A

story could come out of what has been spoken, what people are talking about, otherwise it's

like: "Well, what are you talking about?" Okay? So there's got to be a link. So, if

I was telling this story, maybe I would be talking to friends about holidays, about getting

to planes, and I would say something like: "This... Yeah, I've had a bad experience before

of trying to get to the airport. I'll tell you about this time last summer." Okay? So,

linking it to the conversation. Beginning well. "I'll tell you a little tale", okay?

It's quite sort of soft and polite, but rather than being: "[Makes motorboat noise]", it

invites people to listen in. It kind of quietens things down, and people start listening.

There need to be things in the story that grab people's attention. So... And this kind

of links to this next point of embellishment and exaggeration. "Embellishment" means adding...

Adding a little bit of colour. Okay? So, if we've got someone's face... I'm not an artist,

but if we're going to embellish this, we're going to improve it by putting in some more

sort of details. We're going to give them some hair, we're going to give them quite

a thick neck. Embellishment: Putting more in. "Exaggeration", okay? So we're not going

to do an entirely accurate picture; we're going to say that actually the man has a wart

here, and we're going to find interesting details. For example, his tongue hangs out

of his mouth. Okay? The detail is going for more and more... It's not just information;

it's kind of layers to the story. So, let's put this into practice with the story I'm

telling about the airport.

Okay, so it was half past 4:00 on a Friday. We have to be at the airport at quarter past

5:00. The M25 is gridlock; it's standstill, and I was tearing my hair out-not literally-thinking:

"How on earth am I going to get to the airport?" Luckily, my wife can be quite James-Bond-like

and she... We swapped over, and she started tearing down the hard shoulder. She was...

Okay? So now I need to exaggerate a bit. She was slamming on the accelerator, she was hitting

60 as all the other cars were going just 5 or 10 miles an hour, and we were just sailing

past them, cruising past, thinking that nothing was going to go wrong. We were invincible

- we were on that plane. Okay? So I'm adding in a few details.

Now I need to add in some suspense. So, just as everything looked like it was going to

work out happily ever after, the car slowly came to a halt. And I don't know if you've

stood by the edge of the motorway before, but it's not the best place to be standing;

you've got tankers going past, your car starts shaking, you're worrying whether you're safe.

And at that point, we said: "Oh my goodness, me, what do we do now? Do we just abandon

the car, in which case we'll get a huge fine and lose the car? Do we try and fill up the

car with petrol? How do we do this?" Okay? So what I'm doing with suspense is I want

the people to want to know what happened in the story. Okay?

So, the next chapter. Along comes a taxi, I'm holding out a jerry can. Okay? A "jerry

can" means a tank for petrol, a jerry can. He stops, I jump in the taxi. We go fast,

fast, fast, fast, fast. We go to a petrol station, and then we are going the wrong way

up this motorway, and I can see the car over there. And the man says to me: "Well, it would

be quicker if you ran across the motorway, rather than going all the way back to the

M25 and back down again." What I'm doing here is I'm using dialogue; I'm using words from

a character to make us imagine the story a bit more. Okay?

And now what I want to be doing is putting it into the present tense, it helps us imagine

the story a little bit more. So I'm there, I'm standing on the side of the road and I'm

seeing these cars flying past at 70 miles an hour. I'm thinking: "You want me to run

across there? You must be joking." So I refused his kind offer, and we carried on going. At

that point I receive a phone call, a phone call from my wife, saying: "Honey, I have

left the car. You'll find a couple of things in the car. I'm in a lorry. It's fine. We're

going to the airport." I'm thinking: "What? You've left the car, you're in a lorry? What

on earth is going on here?"

I get to the car, I jump into it. I forget: "Oh yeah, I need to put the petrol back into

the tank." I say: "Good bye, Mr. taxi driver, thank you very much." And then I start tearing

it down to Gatwick Airport. Okay? I need to be aware that I can't go on, and on, and on.

If I speak for too long, the people I'm telling the story to are going to be like: "Benjamin,

boring", okay? I get to the airport, I take... Ripped off my jumper, I'm running through,

I've parked the car, and I... Running, running, running, running, running, running, running,

running, running, sweating, flying through. We all get on to the plane by the skin of

our teeth, which means we only just got there. I'll write that phrase out for you. "By the

skin of our... By the skin of my teeth". Okay? By the skin of my teeth we made it.

Then we need to link back into the conversation, okay? By the skin of my teeth. I need... It

can't just be all about me. Yeah? There are other people in this room that I've been sharing

this story to. Okay? It's not a performance. I'm not in the theatre, going: "Da-da-da-da-da".

We're talking; conversation is two ways. So, I need to say: "So, how about you, Jerry,

do you like airports?" Ask them a question. Put the focus back on the other person.

And, really, this is the number one tip: You need to go with the flow; especially if you're

telling a story with someone else, if you're both telling it. Okay? One of you might go

more for detail, one of you might go more for exaggeration. It's okay to exaggerate,

as long as the story is recognizable. Find a way to tell the story together.

Hope you've enjoyed this video. Have the story, but have fun with it, too. Go tell some great

stories. Until next time, good bye.