How To Turn A Great Adventure Into A Great Story

Alright, now that you’ve told us about your great adventures and we’ve told you about ours, it’s time to discuss the next logical step: how do you turn these epic experiences into an equally epic story? I’m a writer because I love stories, but I believe every woman–whether she’s a writer or an electrical engineer, shy or outgoing–needs to have at least one truly great story in her arsenal. The kind that enthralls people at dinner parties, sends your friends into hysterics, or maybe, if you’re so inclined, becomes Chapter 5 of your bestselling memoir. After the jump, my top tips for turning any experience into an unforgettable story…

Pay attention to details. It’s the details that really bring any story to life. You went tandem skydiving? Cool. You went tandem skydiving with an instructor who looked exactly like Benicio Del Toro? Cooler. He wore the same cologne as your high school boyfriend and you peed your pants a little when you landed? COOLEST. Use all of your senses to take in all the details of crazy moments, and don’t forget to recount them later.

Mine your quirks. I first learned about this idea in a writing class and it quickly became my favorite piece of advice to apply to every part of life. Mining your quirks is about embracing your weird habits and idiosyncrasies. Don’t ignore them or be afraid of them, use them to weave a richer narrative. Maybe you are completely incapable of making a good first impression. Maybe you must straighten any crooked picture frame, even if it’s hanging in the Louvre. Maybe you’re deathly afraid of chicken salad (or is that just me?). Whatever they are, look at your quirks and idiosyncrasies as a guarantee: no one will ever experience life in the exact same way as you do. Great stories are unique, and so are you.

Exaggerate (but just a little). This one might be a little controversial, but if I were to make a list of the people in my life who are the best storytellers, they all have one thing in common: a tendency to exaggerate. Ethics professors will disagree, but I think it’s OK to bend the truth–a teeny tiny bit–for the sake of dramatic effect.

Tell it with confidence. I have a few friends who are intelligent, funny, engaging people, but suffer from what I like to call “the fizzle.” They’ll start to tell a joke or a story but pretty soon they’re averting their eyes and rushing to the punchline in a near whisper, just to get it over with. This happens to me sometimes if I’m not sure people are interested in what I’m saying, but I’ve found it’s best to just power through it with confidence.

Are you a great storyteller? Do you prefer to write your stories down or tell them in person? Any tips you would add to this list?