Honing your storytelling techniques can have profound benefits in day-to-day life.

According to writer Matt Roden, there’s not a single element of writing, speaking or communication that doesn’t benefit from good storytelling.

“If you can understand your audience, if you can frame ideas that are interesting for other people to hear, if you have a built-in perception of that really simple beginning, middle and end, or some kind of emotional hook, your communication skills will benefit,” he explained.

As deputy storyteller with Redfern-based not-for-profit organisation the Sydney Story Factory, Matt has helped thousands of young writers unlock their creativity. The main thing, according to Matt, is practice.

"Basically, the idea is that when students come in they're thinking creatively, they put pen to paper and become confident in their ideas and getting better at articulating them," he said.

Check out Matt’s top tips for crafty storytelling.

What's your story?
As a volunteer with Redfern-based not-for-profit, the Sydney Story Factory, Matt Roden has helped thousands of young writers unlock their creativity. 

1. Find an emotional itch you want to scratch

“If there’s been something weighing on your mind, an event you can’t stop thinking about, even an ad you can’t get out of your head, it’s liable to make a good story. It might be something that confuses you in your own life, something that you’re not quite certain how you feel about, or emotions that keep coming back to you. If there’s an emotional itch you want to scratch, your audience is going to respond to that in some way.”


2. Mix and match the familiar and the new

“Take something you’re really familiar with – maybe a genre or a story structure – and put a spin on it with something new. It might be incorporating details about your personal world into the story into a more familiar genre. We don’t need to keep reading the same story over and over, despite what Hollywood might hope!”

Once upon a time
“If there’s been something weighing on your mind, an event you can’t stop thinking about, even an ad you can’t get out of your head, it’s liable to make a good story,” said creative writing teacher Matt Roden.

3. Use language to help tell your story

“Instead of going to the effort of trying to separate descriptions, build scenes, or tell us how people feel, you can do a lot of that at once with how you use language. Sometimes that’s through how language sounds, how you describe something visually, or using metaphor and simile that match up to the story. If you’re trying to describe a storm that’s happening and communicate how a character feels, you can often combine it. People intuitively pick up on what you’re feeling.”

4. Know when to advance and when to expand

“Balancing the two elements of storytelling: advancing – which includes new details, new characters, events or explosions; and expanding – details, descriptions, emotions, going wider – is both important and interesting. Good storytellers know when to choose one over the other. If you don’t know when one is appropriate, ask someone else. Read your story to a friend and get a feeling for when people want to know more details, and when they’re getting in the way of story.”

Sydney Story Factory
Sydney Story Factory is a Redfern-based not-for-profit that runs creative writing workshops for young people. Their Sunday workshops are supported by the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation.

5. Know your audience

“If you can think ahead of time about who your audience is, what they want to know, and what kind of experience they want, it puts you in a better position to help people connect to your story. Not that you should be writing exclusively for other people; however, you also need to consider what you want to get out of the writing as well.”