Ten Tools to Help Change How You Think About Storytelling
Hi, there! Welcome back to the #StorytellingShift series where I walk fellow writers through the process of learning how to become storytellers. If you're not sure what going from a writer to a storyteller means, hop on over to my first post in the series where I introduce the key to unlocking endless storytelling inspiration as well as the main premise behind the great #StorytellingShift!
- The Key to Unlocking Endless Storytelling Inspiration
- Ten Tools to Help Change How You Think About Storytelling
- How to Assess Your Story's Strengths
- How to Use Different Storytelling Mediums to Enhance Your Project
As storytellers, cultivating new sources of inspiration is seemingly easy. All you have to do is seek out more stories, right?
But if you're like me, sometimes you need a more realistic boost than inspiration. Inspiration is great, but it really only exists to spark the fire of a writer's labor. In other words, it doesn't do enough to completely change the way future storytellers think about writing.
Which is why I've curated a list of my ten favorite tools to help you think like a storyteller. These tools might be new areas to find inspiring content easily, weapons of the craft – the mighty pen being your greatest weapon – or other resources that helped me change the way I think about storytelling. No matter what their purpose, you'll be sure to find a new way to seek out stories and even tell some of your own.
(Note: this post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.)
1. The Storytelling System ebook
It should be a no-brainer that the key to becoming a storyteller is using my free ebook, The Storytelling System. In fact, if you are going to use any of the tools from this list, I highly recommend this ebook.
Because even if you're not convinced about the whole "storyteller" idea – namely, the idea that you are someone who can write a novel, a movie, a play and a video game and very well should invest in writing all of those things – by working your story idea through this ebook, you'll learn quickly how to take inspiration from other mediums in a way like never before. That's because you'll be forced to think about your story ideas in new ways, challenging them and in doing so, you'll open up a whole new part of your brain that isn't used to thinking that way! Plus, this ebook is filled with story inspirations, giving you a starting point if you're feeling totally lost!
2. The Storytelling Syllabus
I know, I know – two tools that are from my blog? How vain! But trust me on this, if you're having trouble remembering to engage with other storytelling mediums, look no further than my Storytelling Syllabus.
Using this tool, you'll log the different stories you experience and set goals for a number of stories you want to read, watch, and see every month.
While doing this might seem a bit over the top – stories are meant for leisure after all, not as homework – if you want to make storytelling your life, you truthfully must think of it like a job, just a super awesome one. In making a point to keep track of the stories you read, watch, and play, you'll become more conscious of the storytelling process as a whole.
However, if digital planners aren't your thing, my favorite tool that I use for planning all of my stories – not just my novels – is Kristen Kieffer's Novel Planner*! Not only is this planner great for organizing you storytelling schedule, but Kristen also has a section in the back where you list stories you've been reading – though you could easily print out my syllabus and combine it with this planner – as well as a weekly planner that encourages you to count – and celebrate – your daily writing achievements!
Download your daily checklist with the form below!
3. Fountain Pen
There is something special about putting pen to paper, but when you use something fancy, like a fountain pen, the experience becomes all the more magical. A fountain pen will make you think more before you start to write, a skill that is essential as a storyteller because it just feels fancy, turning your craft into an artistic form to be appreciated. I'm a big believer in sensory queues, and the devices you use to tell stories are definitely one of those. Investing in a pretty fountain pen will motivate you to start telling your stories again and force you to be more thoughtful about the process.
Plus, if you're new to a medium like screenwriting or video game writing, putting your story to paper – not on a screen – will help you omit any stress you might have about getting the format right.
My favorite place to find fountain pens is Goulet Pens. Not only do they have an extensive guide to taking care of fountain pens, but they also have a range of options, both the luxurious and the more affordable, so that any budget can enjoy a well-penned sentence.
4. Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer
If there was one creative writing book I had to recommend for the rest of my life, it'd be the Wonderbook* by Jeff VanderMeer. The reason for this is not because of the wisdom he imparts, but how he imparts it. Instead of repeating the same old advice as every other writing book out there – which, admittedly, many of them have some amazing wisdom – VanderMeer's book is filled with beautiful, inspiring pages that just upon looking at will make you want to write.
As someone going through your #storytellingshift, this type of visual inspiration is a great way to mix up how you perceive storytelling. My favorite chapter on structure is filled with a bunch of different images and asks readers to write a story based on the image's structure, though all the visualizations in this book provide a fresh new way to think about how we approach storytelling.
Because so many of you likely already use Netflix, I've decided to recommend a different streaming service called FilmStruck. This streaming service focuses on giving viewers access to movies that otherwise are difficult to find. Part of this streaming service is dedicated to the Criterion Collection, one of the best film distribution companies out there that is, according to their site, "dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements."
By using this streaming service, you'll have access to a whole new wealth of films that you might not have seen, films that play with the medium, try new things with editing, or tell a completely visual story. Basically, a subscription to this service is like taking a film history course, but for far less money and with far more options.
A lot of people have a misconception about video games, the type of misconception that is blocking out a whole world (often, quite literally) of inspiration. One of those misconceptions is that you need a console and a heavy-duty computer to play games. And while that might be true for some really great games, if you're still getting your feet wet in the gaming world then Steam is a great place to start – and it's completely free to get an account!
Not only does Steam do huge sales on some amazing games, but it also supports up and coming indie games, so that even the more casual gamer can find something they like. Additionally, you can add friends on Steam, so it's a great social community to meet with people who share your interests or to play video games with friends!
Keeping in line with the Storytelling Syllabus and Kristen's planner*, Goodreads is a website that lets you keep track of all the different books you are reading, want to read, and have read. You can create more lists than that, but in using this website, you'll be able to monitor how much you've been reading, create lists about your favorite books, and make connections like you would with Steam with fellow readers who might have further recommendations for you!
Download your daily checklist with the form below!
Letterboxd is like Goodreads, but for movies! Though the following is not nearly as big as Goodreads, Letterboxd is perfect for keeping track of all the different movies you have seen and what you've thought of them. In addition to writing reviews – a great way to dig deep into why you did or didn't like a story, something we storytellers should always be evaluating – you can keep a film diary and connect with friends to see what else they're watching that you might be interested in!
Video game writing is a great way to help you think like a storyteller. It forces you to think in dynamic ways that address various possibilities and then bring those possibilities to life. However, actually writing a video game filled with possibility can be incredibly overwhelming, especially without a program.
While there is a way to organize your own script – especially since every developer writes video game scripts differently – Inklewriter is a great alternative for writers who want to start writing interactive stories. As you write, you'll be able to connect branching stories and keep track of the different paths your story takes. Not only is this great because it organizes everything for you, but it offers a wonderful way to see the different ways to write any story – not just a video game.
Scrivener is the novelists' path into the future! It allows users to think in a modern, dynamic way, organizing chapters, plot lines and everything else for you. If you're a screenwriter who loves FinalDraft and is hoping to write a novel, then the transitioning to Scrivener will be a comfortable change for you!
What I love most about Scrivener is the corkboard feature and the research organizer. Additionally, if meeting your word count is difficult for you, the statistics and targets section will keep you motivated! All in all, it is the best productivity application out there for storytellers.
BONUS: The Storytelling Gift Guide
If you want to take things to the next level, check out my storytelling gift guide which is jam-packed with stories and tools from every different medium. This will further help inspire your storytelling life and provide you with more inspiration outlets – the key to developing a unique writer's perspective!
Download your daily checklist with the form below!
Do you have any favorite storytelling tools? Tell me below!