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Art & Science of Story Telling

Stories define us. From the time we were kids till today, stories have been an integral part of our growing up. Only the story tellers have changed.

While growing up, it was our mother or the grandmother whose good night tales from the Panchtantra or the Aesop fables fascinated us. We heard about the speaking lions and the running tortoises. Today, we read less but watch these stories. From the world of Arsalan, the king of Narnia to the magic of Harry Potter, stories still fascinate us.

Every movie you watch from the mighty Spartans to the honest Singham, is a story. Stories are all around us. In ads, at theatres, in newspapers and at pre-schools. Dan Pink says, the next century belongs to the story tellers. So how do we become better story weavers?

A story essentially is composed of five key ingredients. Plan these five, stitch them together and lo & behold, you story is ready to be served.

1. Characters

2. Setting

3. Plot

4. Twist

5. Ending

1. Character is the first of the five parts. Every story needs a hero. A hero needs someone to win against. So there also must be an anti-hero too in the story. Both need teams. There goes your character list.

Even Disney stories have their heroes and villains. Nemo’s dad from the Finding Nemo fights the evil fisherman to save his son. Red Riding Hood saves her grandmother from the big bad wolf.

Add adjectives to your characters. Give them a personality. Share their dreams and you have created a rapport with the readers.

2. Next up is Choose where you wish to cast your characters. Would it be the magical lands of Narnia (from the Chronicles of Narnia) or the mythical continent of Westeros from The Game of Thrones.

Your setting can be a simple village or the jungles of Africa. You might have the character study at a college in Kolkata or go fishing at Hawaii. A good setting sets up the mood of the event. Khalid Hussaini’s novels are all based in war torn Afghanistan while the eternal favourite Alchemist takes us through Spain and Egypt in search of pursuing a dream.


3. Plot – With our team and place ready, we plan what the story-line would be. A weak story-line would make the readers or the audiences lose interest. The story line must keep the ages and education level of the participants in mind. This is the key to a powerful narration.

Our hero might have lost a ring and the story is his journey to find his lost treasure (Lord of the Ring). You need to find your genre as you plan.

If it’s a non – fiction, you might tell the story of a black man fighting for his rights in the apartheid South Africa (Long March To Freedom) or a lawyer pushed from the train returning home to liberate his people from their colonial masters (Gandhi).

 Make some key objects central to your story as in a key, train, or a toy. Your core theme could be hope (The Kite Runner) or love (Fault in our Stars) or health (When breath becomes air).

4. Twist – It’s here that your story gets interesting.

Imagine your story that has all animal characters and the setting is the zoo. The plot was all animals were happy entertaining kids. All of a sudden, the animals were let loose from their cages. They are now all over the town. In homes and at schools. That’s the twist.

From here, you get to write your own version of say a Madagascar. Or Jumanji or anything you can imagine.

A twist is an unexpected event in the plot. A twist breaks the monotony of the story-line. It makes the story unpredictable and thus exciting.

5. Ending – A sound ending is like locking your bag before your embark on a journey. Leave it open and its venerable. You are risking all your valuables from the characters to the twist exposed.

A good ending stitches all the parts together. Perhaps it explains the story as in a murder mystery (Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes). It may reinforce the triumph of good over evil. A good ending bring smiles, tears or heart breaks. Whatever, a good ending brings a satisfaction above all. Even a longing for more.

A horse on a deserted island wins against all odds with the help of a young boy (The Black Stallion) or the great flood and the Ark (Noah’s Ark) or the peculiar tale of a tiger and a boy surviving on a boat (The Life of Pi). A story is complete when it takes you on a journey with itself. You cheer for the characters and feel their anguish. You are transported in a new world and that’s what good stories go.

So good ahead and tell a good story tonight.


The author Dawood Vaid has completed the certificate course on ‘Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills’ by The University of Melbourne. He has developed capsules using the 21st century skills under the organization Sky Education. The capsules integrates various subjects from Maths, Science, Languages, ICT and Arts. The themes range from FIFA’s Football fever to Fun with Newton. To know more visit www.skyeducation.in or email dawood@skyeducaiton.in


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