How to Become A Better Storyteller: Broaden Your Horizons


Since we’ve been on the topic of writer’s block lately, I’m going to follow in behind Danika and talk about something I frequently hear in the writer’s block vein:

“I can’t come up with an original idea in <insert genre here>.”

Usually, I hear this from people who have incredibly, INCREDIBLY narrow interests in what type of content they consume. The biggest offender I see is usually someone who ONLY consumes the same kind of content that they want to create. This was your very first blunder, before you even picked up a pen or put your fingers on your keyboard to type.

Good storytellers don’t just tell one kind of story and one kind of story only. They tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of things. Did you ever notice a good storyteller always seems to be worldly knowledged and almost always seems to have a story to tell about practically anything and everything?

It’s because they have BROADENED THEIR HORIZONS.

As a game critic, I play a lot of games. A LOT OF DIFFERENT games. Often times I’ll get into discussions with people who might be playing the same thing as myself, and I ask them what else they play. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Oh, I only play <insert genre> type games.” I promptly end that discussion with them. And why, do you ask? Because they tend to lack OBJECTIVITY and WORLDVIEW.

You, as a content creator, should never limit yourself to one format, one type of thinking. This is dangerous, because it makes you narrow-minded, and narrow-mindedness leads to tunnel vision, and tunnel vision leads… to the dark side. The dark side being shallow, uninteresting content.

Now, this doesn’t mean that having FAVORITE GENRES is bad. Of course we all have favorites and preferences! But what it DOES mean is don’t limit yourself to one thing, because you are missing out on the spice of life. The spice of life is the differences between us, the things that make each of us more unique than every other thing in existence. By taking the time to explore these things that are outside of your normal interest range, they show you that the world exists OUTSIDE OF YOU. It’s a tough thing to hear, but it’s the truth.

You’re sitting there, staring at your paper or staring at your computer screen and thinking, “I’m stuck, I just can’t think of something to write.” That right there is tunnel vision. You are focused so hard on that one thing that you are unable to see the forest for the trees. Take a moment and go look up some of your favorite successful authors or other content creators. You’ll notice that almost all of them will tell you that when they get stuck? They stop working and go and do something else, usually something COMPLETELY unrelated to what they’re working on. When your brain gets so tightly focused on one thing, it begins to miss out on potential breakthroughs. By no longer placing focus on that, it allows your brain to expand that thought process and to take in more information. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on a piece when I just stopped bothering with it for the moment, and within 5 to 10 minutes I clap my hands together because I just got the breakthrough of inspiration that I needed while I was doing something else.  And I didn’t find it dwelling over the keyboard like a stalker, either.

Go and do things that you WOULDN’T NORMALLY DO. You’re a content maker! DRINK IT IN. Read a lot of DIFFERENT books, watch a lot of DIFFERENT movies, and so on and so forth. Take a lap around the block, bake, get up and dance, anything! You may know a whole lot about your genre of choice, but there’s a distinct difference in consuming content and knowing its tropes and the ins and outs, and knowing how to create it.

Maybe you can’t STAND romance films normally, but guess what? There are people out there who watch them and love them, whether you LIKE IT OR NOT. What this means, is that you can sit down and watch these films and try to understand why people ARE attracted to them and why they want to watch them. You might be stuck on an awkward sequence involving a troubled relationship in your story, and watching a cheesy romance flick just might be enough to give you that idea to push past that block. When you take in content that you wouldn’t normally express an interest in, it gives you room to breathe and gain a better understanding of the nature of people, their motivations, and why they choose to do the things they do, even if it is things that you wouldn’t do normally. And when you gain that knowledge, that is how you learn the true secret of creating memorable work…

…Being able to show someone something they’ve NEVER SEEN BEFORE! And they’ll be left wanting MORE.

When all of that is said, I leave you with this question: Do you want to be 350th million person who writes “another” cheesy vampire romance book that’s been done over and over and OVER again, and never get noticed? Or do you want to be that person who has done something never seen before, and can stand aside from your peers as being a unique creator?

I leave that to you to discover. I think, nay, I KNOW you can do better. The world is full of fascinating things, and you deserve to experience them all. Take the time to experience as much as you can, because it SHOWS in your work.

~Oliver

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