Twenty-nine teenagers taught me the ~most important~ lesson about storytelling. Teenagers. Giggling, awkward, funny, creative, angsty (oh-man-the-angst!), and silly high school students taught me a storytelling skill that years of schooling, books about writing fiction, and workshops never could.

 

I still shake my head at how fundamental of a lesson it is, and though tons of books about writing touch on this storytelling lesson, they don’t really spell it out like I will for you right now.

 

Click through to learn the most important lesson about storytelling. A creative writing exercise that will help you write a novel and improve your creative thinking skills. Creativity | Writing skills | drama class | writing exercises

 

Quick flashback to set the stage: When I learned to teach English, I completed my student teaching with the English teacher who taught Introduction to Drama, and so I got to work in that class. If you’ve followed Write Whale for a while, you know that being the center of attention (and participating in an activity, like drama, that puts me in the center of attention) isn’t my thing. It was terrifying at first, but it ended up being the most fun I’ve ever had in a school setting. For real. No lie. 

 

I’m not sure if you ever took a drama class, dear writer, but it is worth it. You learn to trust and collaborate with others in the creative process, you improve your public speaking, think up creative ideas on the fly, and you learn to laugh at yourself. 

 

Here’s the most important lesson I learned from working in a drama class. It significantly improved my storytelling skills.

 

The most important storytelling lesson: Don’t shut down creative ideas

 

The first thing I learned was that drama wasn’t only about performing on stage and Shakespeare. 

 

Learning quick thinking skills, trust, and creative solutions are the cornerstones of drama. The second thing I learned about storytelling from drama was the damaging affect of saying “no” when working with others in skits and coming up with creative ideas. 

 

For example, let’s say Alex and Jill performed an improv skit with the prompt “at a grocery store.”

 

JILL: Loooook at this! Carrots! No more mushy food for you, Mister!
ALEX:  I know—that root canal killed me. I’m psyched to eat something other than your mashed potatoes!
JILL: No, you silly goose—babies don’t get root canals. Your teeth are just growing in! 

 

This skit shows a common mistake that many beginners make in the early stages of the creative process (and in improv). In that instance, Jill had in her mind that her child was a toddler and finally old enough to eat solid food. When Alex established that he had a root canal and was older than a toddler, she negated his response and said “no” to his creative input. Doing this not only leads to a messy skit, it also destroys creativity, collaboration, and trust.  

 

Ever have a great idea for a story, but then you ran out of steam because you didn’t know where to go with it?

 

It’s easy to pass this issue off as writer’s block, but it goes deeper than that. It’s likely that you’re unconsciously negating your own creative ideas. You might have started off writing your story with a vague idea of where you wanted it to go, and that’s fine. But be careful you don’t get in the mindset that an idea is unrealistic or stupid when you try to work through a creative slump.

 

RELATED: 5 Creative Exercises You Need To End Writer’s Block

 

No idea is stupid. Obviously, some  are better than others (like that dream I once had about stringing up Christmas lights 😉). But if you’re really stuck in a scene and you have no idea where to go from there, try some of the unlikely, unrealistic, and silly ideas that pop in your head. 

 

If your hero is having too easy of a time saving a village from the evil-wizard antagonist, take some time to think about the most unlikely thing that could happen. Maybe the village didn’t want saving? Maybe the evil wizard turned them into pigs and they don’t remember life as humans because they’re animals? Or whatever.

 

Talk to your friends, and ask them for solutions. Accept your ideas (and theirs) as fact and try to build your story from there. You might not keep the scenes you write, but you’ll get practice accepting creative ideas for what they are. You’ll learn to stop negating and sabotaging your creativity.

 

A storytelling, drama exercise worth trying

 

There’s actually a drama game that my students played to improve their ability to accept creative ideas no matter how ridiculous or random they might be. It’s called “Yes, and…” In this exercise, students work with a partner to create a scene and skit that works and builds on combined ideas. Every time a new person talks, they need to start by saying, “Yes, and…”

 

It’s basically an exercise in being open to and rolling with your creative ideas as they come to you. It teaches you to explore and develop the creative sparks you have. That’s not to say that all the sparks you have when your mind wanders are gold. But that’s okay. Random, ridiculous, weird, and silly ideas are better than no ideas at all. 

 

Say Jill and Alex from the example earlier were playing “Yes, and…” It might go something like this:

 

JILL: Alex! Loooook at this! Carrots! No more mushy food for you, Mister!
ALEX: Yep, and I’m so down to eat actual food after my root canal—I’m tired of eating your mashed potatoes.
JILL: Yes, and I’m tired of making them for you. They give you terrible gas, dear. 

…etc., etc.

 

 

Though this game works best with a partner, you can turn it into a storytelling and writing exercise in a few ways.

 

1. You could start by thinking of the most unlikely thing that could happen in a scene and then write a “Yes, and…” story of events going off of where you got stuck. You’d just accept and roll with every creative idea you had.

 

OR

 

2. You could start a “Yes, and…” dialogue between two of your characters, using their personalities, character traits, goals, and motivations as a way to develop a scene. 

 

The more you practice accepting your creativity, the more your storytelling skills will grow. Try playing “Yes, and…” the next time you find yourself stuck writing a scene. Remember: It’s better to write something than nothing. Even if the ideas you say “yes” to aren’t golden, your storytelling ability and confidence will benefit.

 

Your turn!

 

I’d love to hear what your thoughts on this! Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. What tricks or exercises do you use when you get stuck in a creative rut? 

 

 

 

  • Find a famous author whose advice & quotes about writing & living a creative life speak to you. Find someone who can relate to the struggle of living creatively. Writing advice | quotes| motivation | writing help | how to write a novel | writing inspiration
    Advice From Famous Authors That Will Raise You Up
    READ MORE
  • How to achieve your writing goals this year. 5 ways to stick to your resolutions and stay motivated all year long. Writing advice | writing tips | motivation | achieve goals | goal setting | productive
    The 5 Best Practices to Achieve Your Writing Goals
    READ MORE
  • Click through to learn the most important lesson about storytelling. A creative writing exercise that will help you write a novel and improve your creative thinking skills. Creativity | Writing skills | drama class | writing exercises
    This Is The Most Important Thing About Storytelling
    READ MORE
  • Click through to learn how to use this narrative technique to get rid of lousy opening scenes and the shaky first page of your novel idea. Learn with examples from books, movies, and TV shows that audiences love. Writing tips | how to start a novel | how to write a novel | writing techniques
    In Medias Res: How to Eliminate Horrible First Pages
    READ MORE
  • Best Writing advice for new and beginner writers. What I wish I learned about writing in high school. Writing tips | Writing advice | how to write | motivation | aspiring writer | write a novel
    Essential Writing Advice You Need To Know
    READ MORE
  • Task Management System | Productivity Tips | Time management hacks | Make time for writing after a long day at work with these productivity tips. Free Time Tracer worksheet that will help you find time to achieve your writing goals.
    Task Management System: How To Write When You're Tired
    READ MORE
  • Click through to learn how to achieve the most common writing resolutions for readers and writers. Find helpful advice and resources that will help you stick to your New Years Resolutions. Writing advice | write a novel | publishing | editing tips | writing goals | procrastination | motivation
    The Ultimate Guide to Writing Resolutions: Tips You Need To Know
    READ MORE
  • Stuck with no plot? Click through for 6 creative thinking exercises to help brainstorm a novel idea in 10 minutes. Have more productive brainstorming sessions. Writing advice | how to brainstorm a novel | how to write a novel | writing tips
    Brainstorm a Novel Idea in 10 Minutes
    READ MORE
  • Click through to see the three best books about writing you should read. These books about writing are written by successful authors and featured in countless writing courses. They will help you grow and thrive as a writer. Writing tips | book recommendations | books about writing | learn to write | how to write a novel
    3 Amazing Books About Writing You Should Read Right Now
    READ MORE
  • Click through and learn to write a book readers can't put down. Here's the different types of conflict found in books readers obsess over. Writing tips | how to write a novel | writing conflict | book recommendations | books for writers
    7 Types of Conflict Found in Books that Readers Obsess Over
    READ MORE
  • Do you want an affordable, quick, and easy writing app to proofread your writing before you publish it? Click through for an honest review of the #1 Grammar checking and proofreading app. Writing tips | best writing software | grammar help
    Grammarly: Complete Your Novel with the Best Writing App
    READ MORE
  • Click through to get the best advice and anxiety help for writers. Grab your free writing worksheet download and build your confidence as a writer. Writing advice | overcome anxiety | writing help | improve writing skills
    Here Is The Best Anxiety Help For Writers
    READ MORE
  • One way to get your writing out there is to submit it to short story competitions. Most writing competitions have entry fees. Click through to find out what to do if you have writing ready for submitting, but don’t want to dole out cash. Writing tips | publish writing | publishing help | writing competitions | self-publish
    3 Free To Enter Short Story Competitions
    READ MORE
  • Click through and learn two killer brainstorming activities that will end writer’s block and help you develop your novel and story ideas. Learn how to turn a half-formed story idea into a fully-developed plot. Writing advice | brainstorm a novel | write a novel | brainstorm a creative idea
    Brainstorming Activities That Will Help Develop Your Novel
    READ MORE
  • Click here to grab your free copy of the essential Character Sheet!
    What You Need To Create A Character Readers Will Die For [Character Sheet Included]
    READ MORE
  • How to find the perfect writing buddy to get feedback on your writing. Free guidelines included for productive and positive interactions. Writing tips | writing advice | writing feedback | writing critique
    How To Connect With The Perfect Writing Buddy
    READ MORE
  • Click through to learn the signs that you are ready to start writing the first draft of your novel. Learn how to tell when your story outline is finished, when your research is complete, and how to jump into writing. Writing Tips | Write a novel | creative writing | storytelling | plan a novel | first draft | #amwriting #writing #writetip #writerslife
    How To Know When You Are Ready To Start Your Novel
    READ MORE
  • Improve your writing by learning active and passive voice. Includes a free cheat sheet with a simple trick to identify passive voice. Writing advice | writing tips | improve writing skills | how to write | grammar help | grammar tips
    What You Need To Know To Learn Active And Passive Voice
    READ MORE
  • Click through to listen to storytelling tips and writing tutorial podcast Just Wondering Writers. Take control of your writing education and develop the creative writing skills you need to craft captivating stories with Just Wondering Writers. Join Liz Rufiange as she breaks down the stages of the writing process and answers all of your “I was just wondering…” questions about writing.
    NEW PODCAST! Just Wondering Writers: Episode 01: The Most Important Thing You Need To Know Before You Start Your Novel
    READ MORE
  • How to learn grammar without a workbook. Practical, real-world ways to learn grammar. Useful tips and tricks to help you learn grammar. Writing tips | grammar help | how to improve grammar | writing skills
    Grammar Workbook Alternatives: 4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Writing
    READ MORE
  • Examples of the most common dialogue mistakes make by new writers. Click through for foolproof solutions for fixing these common mistakes. Writing tips | writing advice | how to write a novel | how to write dialogue | writing dialogue help
    Forget this Bad Advice about Writing Dialogue that makes You Look like an Amateur
    READ MORE
  • Click through to learn the most important bit of advice that all writers should know before they start writing a novel. Writing advice | get help writing a book | write a novel | writing a first draft | write a story | Creative writing
    Get Help Writing A Book: What You Need To Know Before You Start
    READ MORE
  • Improve descriptions in your writing. Click through for a free worksheet. The biggest misconception about descriptive writing. Writing tips | descriptive writing | writing worksheets | how to write descriptions
    How to Improve Your Descriptive Writing [Worksheet Included]
    READ MORE
  • 5 Creative Exercises You Need To Eliminate Writer's Block
    READ MORE
  • Welcome to Write Whale! Your One-Stop Writing Guide Resource
    READ MORE
  • Click through to learn editing tips that will ensure readers connect with your writing to the fullest extent. Download your free copy of the list of common filter words to edit out of your novel. Writing tips | editing | revision | edit a novel | improve writing | podcast | filter words | writing downloads | free resources
    Episode 02: 3 Editing Tips You Need To Know To Write Perfectly
    READ MORE
  • What to look for when giving feedback on writing. How to be better at receiving writing. Free editing checklist and the feedback sandwich. Writing tips | revision | writing critique | feedback | self-editing
    What You Need To Know About Giving And Receiving Feedback
    READ MORE
  • Click through and learn the things that go on readers' and writers' shopping lists. Find the best books to inspire your creativity and the tools to supercharge your writing environment. Writing tips | writing advice | writing tools | amazon | book recommendations | writing tools
    Take A Peak At Readers' and Writers' Shopping Lists
    READ MORE
  • Four useful tips to overcome procrastination to be more productive and get stuff done. Writing tips | be more productive | overcome procrastination | writing advice
    4 Life-Changing Ways to Overcome Procrastination
    READ MORE
  • Click through and tackle the easily misunderstood "write what you know" writing advice. Learn some strategies to overcome writing anxiety. Free writing workbook download included. Writing tips | writing advice | how to write what you know | how to write a novel
    Writing with Confidence: How to Write What You Know
    READ MORE
  • Read like a writer with these literary devices! Made easy with examples from Harry Potter. Click through to learn 7 of the most popular literary devices you can use in your writing. Get your free copy of a glossary with 45+ literary devices and many examples from other books. Writing tips | critical reading | Harry Potter | writing techniques
    7 Popular Literary Devices To Use In Your Novel
    READ MORE
  • Click through to learn the most cost effective way to improve your writing. Download my free critical reading worksheet and start improving your writing today! Writing tips | writing worksheet | critical reading | how to improve writing
    Critical Reading: The Best Way To Improve Your Writing If You're Broke
    READ MORE
Get your free Descriptive Writing & Imagery Worksheet by entering your info!

Get your free Descriptive Writing & Imagery Worksheet by entering your info!

You are half way there! Please complete this form and click the button below to gain instant access to your free resource.

Success! Check your email--your imagery worksheet is on the way!

Ready to write captivating stories?

 

Join countless others and get access to my free library of worksheets, e-books, and resources for writers.

You have Successfully Subscribed!