Learn the art of storytelling with the help of these amazing TedTalks.
Telling stories, writing narratives, conveying information, and expressing yourself are all part of the human experience. While the term ‘storytelling’ itself might be part of a legacy closely knit to the digital age and often thrown around as the new ’it’ skill you simply need to have, the art of sharing experiences, creating fiction, and speaking truth through different forms of entertainment have all been around since the beginning of time.
Whether it be marketing, copywriting, content creation, or a whole different branch of business, storytelling and the comprehension of different narratives we see on the daily are useful tools to have in your arsenal. Today, we’re going to take a look at the best TedTalks that can help you understand what storytelling really is, the ways in which you can use it, and how finding your own voice and your own narrative to tell might not be as hard as it seems on the surface.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Danger of a Single Story
In 2009, one of the most famous contemporary Nigerian authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, held the famous TedTalk on storytelling called The Danger of a Single Story. Taking from her own family history, as well as the history of her country, Ngozie Adichie explains in what ways our cultures and lives consist of many different stories, all overlapping with each other.
Best known for her novels Americanah, Purple Hibiscus, and Half of a Yellow Sun, as well as her essay We Should All Be Feminists, this author and master storyteller gives us an insight into the way in which telling her own story actually helped her find her real, authentic voice. It’s not only about listening to those who speak the loudest in order to understand something, it’s about listening to all the different sides and heterogenous voices around us who might otherwise be overlooked.
Andrew Stanton – The Clues to a Great Story
Most of us have grown up watching the Toy Story franchise. And for good reason. While primarily aimed at children, the initial trilogy of the Toy Story movies managed to combine a lot of storytelling techniques and practices, making it a wonderful and communicative narrative for younger age ranges, as well as older audiences. With a mixture of humor, adventure, character development, and a strong narrative, these animated features are a wonderful case study for great storytelling.
On that note, Andrew Stanton, the filmmaker who brought these tales to the big screen, offers insights into his crafts in his 2012 TedTalk The Clues to a Great Story. Taking us back in time through his career, Stanton explains how the best way to capture audiences is by making them care.
Elif Shafak – The Politics of Fiction
In a similar vein to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Turkish author Elif Shafak talks about the way narratives and stories help us understand and breach cultural barriers. Well appreciated for her novels The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love, and many others, in which she blends the East and West, the local and the global, Shafak brings us a TedTalk which teaches us to listen and broaden our horizons.
In The Politics of Fiction, this writer tells us what happens when we manage to jump over different cultural hurdles, embracing the diverse experiences of others. Building on the argument that fiction can and will breach identity politics, this speech from 2010 is as accurate now as it was a decade ago. It’s by listening and understanding that we can reach a middle ground and by giving voices to the voiceless that we can use storytelling as a way to both educate and understand our audience.
J.J. Abrams – The Mystery Box
Creating a sense of mystery and the unknown, if done well, is some of the most powerful devices of storytelling. Engaging the audience, making them interested, holding their attention, and delivering on the sense of awe created by a couple of powerful questions and hidden meanings, make just about every story stand out.
And who better to talk about this topic than a writer, director, and producer J. J. Abrams — one of the leading names in the speculative genre in modern television and movie cinematography. In the 2007 TedTalk The Mystery Box, the author of the TV series Lost explains the powerful ways the unseen can help create a gripping story. Going all the way back to the initial spark which started his imagination, this speech is a great resource for those who want to bring their storytelling abilities to a new level.
Shekhar Kapur – We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves
Have you ever asked yourself where inspiration comes from? Hollywood and Bollywood director Shekhar Kapur might have an interesting answer – from sheer and utter panic. In his 2009 TedTalk, We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves this filmmaker brings us his take on the origin of ideas and the ways we can channel excitement and anxiety into compelling narratives.
Creativity is a living and breathing thing residing in all of us. The key is to find ways to help us unleash it. Good storytelling is a muscle like any other — with time, attention and the right techniques, each of us can find our own voice to bring out tales of truth, empathy, and emotion, enabling us to experience what being human really means.
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