30 August 2019

Storytelling basics: A (mini) series

Posted by Shane Hanlon

By Shane M Hanlon

Me telling a story for Story Collider. I’m very expressive with my hands. Credit: Lauren Lipuma

I’m a professional storyteller. It’s a weird thing to say and has been a weirder realization to come to. But, it’s true. In addition to my role at AGU in the Sharing Science Program, I’m a Senior Producer with the science storytelling organization The Story Collider where folks tell true, personal stories about science, live on stage. My job as co-host of the DC chapter is to help storytellers craft their stories prior to our shows every other month (or bimonthly…but somehow that word has two completely different meanings in the dictionary). I also manage a team from one of our other shows. I’ve told stories for Story Collider, The Moth, Perfect Liars Club, and am telling one soon for Story District. By this point, I think I can be comfortable in saying that I know how to tell stories.*

Increasingly, AGU is getting into the stories business. I actually wrote a piece about it recently for our news magazine, Eos. Both internally and externally, folks keep asking is Sharing Science has official guidance on storytelling. The short answer is yes but most of it is part of larger scicomm training programs we have. While we’re going to remedy that in the near future, I figured I’d start here with a quick series on the 101 components of storytelling. In the coming posts I’ll outline:

  • The basic structure of a story
  • Stakes (i.e. why should folks care)
  • Narrative themes
  • Pitfalls
  • & more!

So, whether you’re brand new to storytelling or a seasoned pro, I hope that the coming posts provide some helpful guidance on telling that perfect** story.

-Shane M Hanlon is Program Manager of AGU’s Sharing Science Program and a Senior Producer with the science storytelling organization The Story Collider. Find him @EcologyOfShane.


*This does not mean that I’m a great storyteller, by any means. Knowledge and execution can sometimes be separate things.

**”Perfect” is subjective. Just get out there and tell stories!