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What is Good Storytelling?


You hear stories all the time… at work, with your friends, at the movies, etc.  Everyone loves a good story.  But what is it that makes a story good?  And how do you tell a good story through a blog?

I did a little research on storytelling, and from what I could gather, I’ve gleaned that there are more or less 5 elements that make a story good:

  1. Hook your audience, and then keep them interested until the very end.  Maximilian Majewski, in a blog post titled Be a Storyteller:  How to Write Great Blogs, says to interest the reader within the first paragraph, and if they continue reading beyond that, you have won.
  2. Talk about something that would interest anyone and everyone.  According to Andrew Stanton, the greatest commandment of storytelling is to make the reader care. Stanton says that a good story starts off by giving you a promise that the story will lead somewhere that’s worth your time.  Click here to see filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) talk more about storytelling.
  3. It may be your story, but make it a deeply personal story, one that everyone can relate to.  A great story is laden with values and sentiments that are universally felt.  John Steinbeck said,

If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen.  And here I make a rule–a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last.  The strange and foreign is not interesting–only the deeply personal and familiar.”

4.  If you can’t think of something to write about, then listen to what’s going on around you, and to how people react to what’s going on, so that you’ll be able to clarify a position in a controversial matter, or be able to add something of value.  Kivi Miller talks about how to write awesome blogs here.

5.  And since Andrew Stanton has such good insight into how good storytelling works, I’ll share one other element of his, that is, the unifying theory of 2 plus 2.  The whole idea is to make your audience work for it’s meal.  Stanton says not to give them 4, but make them put 2 and 2 together.  It is the very absence and withholding of information that draws people in and keeps them interested in a story.  People want to anticipate what’s going to happen next and want to put the pieces together, so let them.

These 5 I listed are just major ideas I took away from the blogs and videos I skimmed on the web.  Hopefully these tips help.  Happy storytelling.

For more information on what the seasoned bloggers of today think about storytelling, see the article 18 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Storytelling.




Check out WABE’s interview with Danny Porter on All Things Considered.  Also, to make a correction on my last post, Porter claims that there is “a lot of prostitution going on,” and that he is confused by the term “self-exploited.” Porter states that prostitutes, even when under the age of 18, are not truly coerced, and so cannot be considered victims of human trafficking.

On Advocacy and Human Trafficking in Georgia

You’d think the word “trafficking” is pretty straight forward, right? You’d also like to think that most people would readily support the efforts and positions of advocates who fight such an injustice as human trafficking right? The answer to both of these questions have surprised me, and I will elaborate below. But first, I must express gratitude for the opportunity to work at the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic at Emory University. It is because of my experience through the Barton Clinic that I have started to really know what it’s like to be an advocate in the fight against human trafficking. I thought I knew what trafficking was all about.  But I continue to be “schooled” as I see that it’s a much harder and more complicated battle then it first seems.

So, back to the questions I mentioned above.  What does it mean to be trafficked? Well, that depends. Are we talking about the international definition according to the United Nations, the federal definition, the state definition, or the definition according to the Polaris Project, the leading organization in the fight against human trafficking? These definitions differ, and in considerably large ways. The federal government includes both the selling and buying of sex as part of the definition of “severe forms of trafficking.” Polaris Project, on the other hand, does not include buying in its definition of trafficking.  In Georgia, most jurisdictions have not adopted the federal definition which would make pandering a crime. However, in a recent 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case, the court adopted the federal definition, marking an important shift in how the state defines trafficking.  

WABE’s Denis O’Hayer has been covering the fight against human trafficking in Georgia, and in a recent interview with Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, O’Hayer sheds light on the prosecutor’s views on prostitution and human trafficking. Porter was a member of the Joint Human Trafficking Study Commission, which released its draft report this past week. In the interview, Porter said that many of these prostitutes which he has come across are not victims of human trafficking, but are “self-exploiting” themselves. He also strongly criticizes the advocacy community for not having better numbers on how many trafficking victims exist in the state. I argue that these children who are supposedly “self-exploiting” do not have a choice but to perform sexual acts against their will, whether it was through physical coercion, psychological coercion, or deception. I also argue that, while yes, we do not have hard data on the actual number of victims in the state, you have to understand it is due to the nature of this underground crime; also, just because we don’t have hard data does not mean that there isn’t a serious human trafficking problem. We have evidence that there indeed is a problem. My supervisor will respond in a follow-up interview on 90.1 sometime this week, about which I will blog on later.

The lesson I’ve learned so far, is that nothing is what it seems, and this is especially true in the world of advocacy. It’s a hard battle, and even when it’s a good cause, not everyone will be on your side, even when they are supposed to be. You just have to remember your passion, get the facts straight where you can, and use your fellow advocates to get yourself motivated again.

For more information on the demand-side of human trafficking and how to get involved, visit http://www.demandforum.net/.

Personal vs. Professional Use of Social Media

In the non-cyber world, I am a sound believer that there is a time and place for everything.  There’s a time to be professional and a time and place to be personal.  This tenet of mine also holds in the cyber world.

When it’s time to be personal, you don’t censor yourself, you don’t worry about what to say and post, and you can also advertise for your professional life as well.  But when you want to be professional, you may want to consider very carefully where you post messages, how you go about posting on professional forums and social websites, and you will probably want to create different Facebook pages and other social media accounts solely for the “professional” you.

I feel like knowing how to separate and balance your personal use of social media with your professional use is crucial for your own reputation’s sake.  It is also important for the sake of your employers.  It is somewhat an art as well as a skill, and so I look forward to testing my creativity, skills, and patience as I continue to blog.

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