How to Tell a Story

3 April 2023

Telling a story is far easier than most people realise, because a story is nothing more than a retelling of something which made you feel an emotion with plenty of adjectives added in to help describe the scene, events and characters.

However, most people struggle to tell stories because they often tend to give a logical, chronological retelling of the events that occurred, rather than describing the emotions they felt throughout the entire experience, meaning their audience is left uninspired, unconnected and placed into a content coma.

Therefore, if you want to be a storyteller who can hold your audience spellbound, you need to be able to describe not only the logical sequence of events, but also how you felt, how the story unfolded and vividly describe what you experienced with a rich use of adjectives, similes and metaphors.

Step One – Make a Story Collection:

It’s very hard to make up a story on the spot, but it’s much easier to remember something which has happened to you and then turn it into a story, because stories are nothing more than a memory or retelling of an emotional event.

Try to recall a moment you went through some:

  • Personal challenges
  • Difficult decisions
  • Obstacles you overcame
  • Events which changed your life, perspective or values
  • Missed opportunities or great discoveries
  • Failed or successful ideas
  • Near-misses or close-shaves.
  • Silly ideas which worked and those which didn’t.
  • Inspiring people, challenging times or cultural upheavals.
  • Insignificant moments which enormous impacts
  • Travel stories
  • People you have met, loved or lost
  • Unexpected events
  • Wins and losses

Step Two – Summarise the Story:

When a suitable story idea or memory comes to mind, summarise it by following this basic structure:

  1. Character(s)
  2. Time
  3. Place
  4. Senses or emotions stimulated
  5. Events high and low
  6. Lasting impact (optional)
  7. Moral of the story (optional)
  8. Story summary in one sentence
  9. Reason for sharing
  10. Ideal audience to share with

You’ll notice that on the last point, you should aim to identify who your ideal audience is when sharing this story. Doing this will help you save time, because although some of your stories may be entertaining to you, they may not be relevant to anyone else!

Step Three – Use Adjectives:

The most common struggles my clients face is painting a picture in the imagination of their audience, but a story without adjectives is like a painting without colour.

To keep your audience interested your tale, you need to stimulate their senses with rich adjective use. You can improve your story by describing the senses stimulated and then the emotions you felt throughout.

We have five primary senses:

  • Sight
  • Smell
  • Sound
  • Taste
  • Touch

And these combined create varying emotions.

Therefore, if you saw a panicking crowd, describe how they were shouting, screaming and hollering as they scrambled for support. You likely didn’t feel safe or secure during that time, so outline how your emotions were running wild, with your heart pounding and your mind being left in a state of dread.

If you were describing a story with a particular scent, you could talk about how walking into an abandoned archive had you met with the scent of musty, old books, rife with mould and a pungent smell of rotting paper hanging in the air.

If you’re describing a particular sound, such as a deafening silence use metaphors or similes to describe how the listeners fell silent as the grave, leaving the room dead as a night on the black sea, leaving all who heard the terrible comment with resounding silence with all jaws agape.

If your talk describes a special meal, talk about how it was was mouth watering, because it was spiced with pepper, topped with fragrant jasmine rice and rich with an oily beef broth.

Perhaps you’re describing the first time you felt a luxury product and how this led to you creating your own brand. Begin by describe the texture and feel of the object(s) with words such as plush, soft carpets, varnished and sleek tables or supple leather.

When it comes to emotions, you may struggle to share them, especially If you’re from a more reserved culture because we are taught to keep our thoughts private. However, by not sharing this personal insight, your audience won’t be able to empathise with you or feel how you felt, making your story far less relatable and that personal connection less likely.

As mentioned, this is a particularly challenging exercise for most. If you find it difficult to use adjectives in your storytelling contact me today to arrange a bespoke, one-hour lesson.


  • Use vivid, descriptive language: adjectives, metaphors and similes will help create a mental image for your audience to picture in the theatre of their mind.
  • Use dialogue between characters to help advance the story and show the different points of view experienced by each character.
  • Foreshadow some event, memory or conversation to add an element of mystery.
  • Talk about flashbacks; revisiting past events to provide context and background information is a great way of reminding your audience of what happened previously.
  • Don’t give the mystery away all at once. Use suspense to build anticipation and uncertainty to keep your audience engaged.
  • Include a ‘turning point’ which spells out how you changed your actions helping resolve a conflict or change a narrative.
  • If you can make people laugh, they’ll subconsciously agree with you. Incorporating comedic elements to lighten the mood and entertain the audience is always a good idea.
  • Repetitive rhetoric: repeating words, phrases or themes makes your talk far more influential and persuasive.

Private Coaching:

Unless you’re an expert raconteur like Peter Ustinov, you likely won’t be able to improvise a story without making lots of painful and costly errors. But if you’d like to learn how to become a confident impromptu speaker who can tell spellbinding stories with ease, contact me today and I’d be happy to provide you with a truly bespoke learning experience.