Storytelling Writing – Writing Advice

Story tellers writing helpWriting Advice for Storytelling Writer

Storytelling writing belongs to the fiction writing category. The intention of this post is to leave storytelling writers fully informed and knowing how to write such articles.

I am very fond of storytelling. It reminds me of my early childhood. I grew up in a Shona society. In those days many parents including the elderly people tasked with the responsibility to look after children, ould sit around a big fire in the evening narrating folk stories.

Back then storytelling was a valuable instrument for passing tradition from one generation to another generation. Also, storytelling was a tool for informing, educating and entertaining.

Long before writing became institutionalized as it is today, telling stories was an important vacation in traditional societies and very instrumental in teaching various lessons. African traditional societies such as the Shona tribes generally, lived by a word of mouth and storytelling to preserve cultural norms, values and shaming of social vices. Shona society has a rich tradition of storytelling like any other societies in the world.

Quoted from the Journal of Philosophy, Culture and Religion (2017).

Storytelling – Fictional Writing

Definition Storytelling writing falls in the category of fiction writing. Fiction writing is the composition of non-factual prose texts, often produced as a story meant to entertain or convey an author’s point of view. The end result is a short story, novel, novella, screenplay and drama, which are all types of Narrative Writing Styles.

Different types of authors practice fictional writing, including novelists, playwrights, short story writers, dramatists and screenwriters.

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Where storytelling originated from?

Storytelling existed long back. In fact well before the invention of writing. The earliest forms of storytelling were different from what we have today. They were mostly oral combined with gestures and expressions.

Modern storytelling has broadened its scope. It still embraces the traditional forms such as fairy tales, folktales, mythology, legends and fables. And also represents history, personal narratives, political commentary and evolving cultural norms.

Emerging new forms of media have contributed a lot to storytelling writing by creating new ways for people to record, express and consume stories.

Is Storytelling Writing Taught?

Contemporary storytelling is also widely used to address educational objectives. In her webinar, Karen Saxby (2017) reveals how story pictures can help to prepare young learners’ story based reading, story-based writing and speaking tests. She also defines a story the way she perceives it.


(1) Stories are not just a long text.

There is more to stories than being just the long text we read in books but they can be a Facebook message.

(2) Are stories narratives?

Stories are narratives or accounts of events that we think might be interesting to a reader.

(3) Are stories always detailed?

Stories do not need to be super long and clever detailed text.

Why do Stories Engage Us (Saxby) 

(1) Stories occupy the space between reality and imagined the reality.

(2) We enter a world with an interest out of our own choice.

(3) Stories attach readers to specific characters and stories mirror feelings.

(4) Stories cause us to subconsciously visualize things using imaginations to complement the text.

(5) Stories transport self into the scenario.

(6) Cause us to judge behaviours and to learn social norms.

(6) Language is immediate and owned. 

Storytelling writing is a genre I am interested to learn more about. To broaden my horizon in this genre, recently I conducted web research. I came across Steven James (2011)’s very insightful hints and tips on storytelling writing.

Steven James (2011), a novelist and a writing instructor, writes about the 3 vital aspects of story crafting which many authors leave out. Below, I present to you James’s 3 Secrets to Great Storytelling.


 James (2011), advises storytelling writers to always remember one basic rule. The rule says everything in a story is caused by the action or event that precedes it. Therefore, as a fiction writer, your role is to make your readers emotionally present in the story. 

Avoid writing in a way which makes your readers guess why something happened. Once your readers reach a point of guessing, they intellectually disengage and distance themselves from the story. 

Usually, when a storytelling writer is told by the reader that he (the reader) was so engrossed to put the book down, it boils down to the fact, everything in the story followed in a logic way. Stories that move forward in a natural way keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. Failure to do so exposes the writer’s weaknesses.


Readers would want to believe your story. As a writer, your goal is to convince the reader not to suspend his belief. You achieve that by giving the reader what he wants and you continually sustain his belief in the story. So, as a writer, you need to respect the reader enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Personally, I have been greatly disappointed on many occasions that I read stories written with an “over the top” style. Meaning they are not believable and have no coherence (not making sense). This is what kills a storytelling piece of work. I can totally relate to James’s observations.


James points out that, ‘tension drives a story forward. When tension is resolved, the momentum of the story is lost.’  As a writer, always ask yourself “How can I make things worse?” The story needs to progress towards more and more conflict, with more intimate struggles and deeper tension.

Marion Roach Smith (2011) writes in The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life: 

The greatest story you could write is the one you experienced yourself. Knowing where to start is the hardest part, but it just got a little easier with this essential guidebook for anyone who wants to write a memoir.

Judging from works of renowned storytelling writers, stories written with a creative and meaningful storytelling technique have had a groundbreaking success.


(1) Marion Roach Smith (2011), The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life, Hachette, UK.

(2) Phillipa Mutswanga (2017) Gullibility and Zimbabwean Shona Folktales (Journal Vol 2), ‘Implications to Biblical Teachings and People with and Without Disabilities, Harare. (3)  (2011),
3 Secrets to Great Storytelling.


If you have any questions related to this topic, Storytelling Writing – Writing Advice, please leave them below. I will get back to you with a response as soon as I can. Also, feel free to share your views and opinions.

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