The Science of Storytelling – Part 2
The art of good storytelling as just as much about science and how our brain reacts to a story well told, to any perceived magic. But a really good narrator knows just what buttons to push to captivate an audience and leave it spellbound. Whether a storyteller knows what the scientific approach is to tell a good story, he will know what the audience likes and play on that. But we continue our advice on how to approach telling a story to a live audience.
Use the Senses
To fully captivate an audience, they must feel that they are actually part of the story and living it inside their heads. A good storyteller will make their stories rich with descriptions and attempt to trigger the sensory cortex of the listener. This can be done by focusing on feelings, touch, sound, smells etc. These are all strong emotional senses and the audience can emphasize with each and every one in their minds.
One of the biggest mistakes a storyteller makes is to leave out their own feelings. When emotions are included in a story it will trigger the mirror neurons in the audience and they too will feel the same emotions, making them live the story with the narrator. It is a medical fact that when we share and feel empathy towards somebody the brain releases a chemical called oxytocin (the bonding chemical) which helps the brain feel trust and leads to a bonding.
Scientists have also found that when we experience a lively and emotional event, the body releases dopamine which is a chemical that helps us to retain memories of what we have experienced. What this research tells us is that the more emotions you pour into your story then the more the audience will remember what you said and the more they are likely to trust you.
Edit Your Story Carefully
The biggest mistake storytellers and authors make is that they try to tell everything! The brain has a relatively short attention span, so that your audience does not get bored with your story every piece of it must have its rightful place.
Firstly, think what the main message is that you want to get across, then provide corroboratory data to support the message, then you can more or less leave the rest out. Does it matter that your wife wore a red coat? Yes? Leave it in. Does it matter that you had a haircut that day? No? Omit it.
If you remember the importance of oxytoxin and dopamine then you must leave in all the emotional stuff that we have already mentioned, this cannot be left out. By sticking to the essential material and adding details with emotions you can certainly deliver a great story in a relatively short space of time. Finally, don’t tell your audience what is going to come later on in your story, in other words don’t give plot details away too early. The audience will not care about them if they already know the outcome. These scientific tips will help you in becoming a much better storyteller and your audience will certainly appreciate it.