Bad at Telling Stories? We Have Some Advice for You

Here are four tips for how to tell a good story.

YOU’RE AT A PARTY – or in a Zoom happy hour – and you’d like to dazzle the other guests with your wit and charm. But you’re not sure how to turn any of your rambling anecdotes about your ill-fated rodeo clown career into an interesting story. Don’t panic! Ex Fabula’s Nicole Acosta can help.

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Identify the story’s central change.

Did you learn something about the world? About yourself? Was an object or a relationship created or destroyed? If your story has multiple changes, decide which one is the most important. That will give your story focus.

Include several vivid details that paint pictures in the minds of the listeners.

For example, in a road trip story, “a gray, 2002 Toyota Corolla with a dented passenger door” is way better than “a car.” Allow the five senses to transport you and the listener.

Throughout the story, mention how you felt.

What was going on inside your head? What were your hopes and fears? Be vulnerable, and you’ll draw the listener in.

End by reflecting on how you feel today, looking back.

There’s no need to state the moral or meaning of the story.


Ex Fabula hosts regular story slams – live events where audience members and invited guests share true stories about themselves – at venues around town. Their annual end-of-season “All Stars” story slam will feature encore performances from slammers who’ve impressed audiences at past events. For show dates and more information, visit exfabula.org.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s May issue. 

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.