Storytelling Tips

Here are some tips on what we're looking for in a story:

  •  Put yourself in the story. It's important that you're telling your own story, and not somebody else's.

  • Tell us how you changed. The best stories have an arc of change. How did this experience impact you? Consider dividing your story into a beginning (status quo or buildup), middle (conflict and climax), and end (resolution). It also helps to think about the stakes in the story. What do you stand to gain or lose?

  • Show us your humanity. Don't be afraid to get intimate and tell us about your doubts and flaws. Don't pretend to be perfect or a superhero!

  • Be descriptive. Please share details. What did you see, hear, feel, taste? This helps draw the audience in! But keep in mind, too much flowery language may overwhelm. Our stories are live performances, not essays. Imagine you’re telling the story at a dinner party.

  • If your story is serious, please try to include a few moments of humor/levity.

  • Target length is 5-10 minutes. Remember, our storytellers do not use notes.

  • You can hear examples of successful stories on our podcast.

  • More tips on live storytelling form the New York Times here.

  • Have fun!

A note: if you decide to include patients and their friends/family as characters, a good rule of thumb for preserving confidentiality is that your characters should not be able to recognize themselves in your story. Some ways to achieve this: don't include names or dates, consider changing key characteristics (e.g. if a hat or backpack was a key feature of your patient, make it a scarf or a necklace), and don't make diseases too recognizable (e.g. lymphangioleiomyomatosis should be changed to "lung disease"). Alternatively, you can obtain a patient's written permission to use HIPAA-protected information in your story. For a quick review of this issue, check out this article and this article.