Wondering what your next Voice video should be about? We’ve been refreshing the Explore feed with great stories for inspiration, and there’s a wheel of templates with questions that help you get your story started. We also thought it would be fun to share advice from the experts and hear what they have to say about story.
Meet Michelle Richmond, who has been helping people tell great stories for most of her life. So far, Michelle has authored six books: two short story collections, and four novels. She also offers consulting services to help beginning writers approach their first projects and find success. Here’s Michelle’s Voice video promoting her business, the Book Doctor:
We’re impressed with your success as an author! Have you always been interested in writing?
Michelle: I knew that I would be a writer from a young age, but wasn’t sure what form it would take. I studied journalism in college, got my MFA and started teaching creative writing and publishing novels and short story collections. I don’t teach at the university anymore, but I still lead small group classes so I can keep in touch with the storytelling process and see the excitement of writers who are just learning their craft.
How did you approach using Voice?
Michelle: For the Book Doctor, I knew what my message was, what I care about, and what I want my audience to know. If someone is writing a book, I can help, and if they’re scared I can help them get past it.
After deciding each point I wanted to make, I added pictures and icons and then moved the various pieces around. That’s actually the way I write a novel and teach creative writing, also – you should begin with a sense of discovery and say what you feel deeply needs to be said. Then treat it as a series of moving parts, and put those parts together to tell your story in the best way possible. With Voice, with the touch of a finger you can move pieces around and create a story as you go.
How can Voice help a new storyteller?
Michelle: Every story needs a beginning, middle, and end. The different templates in Voice allow you to choose what kind of narrative you want to create and choose the best structure. The “Tell What Happened” template, for example, is a very clear, seven-step guide for telling a story. The prompts lead users through who, when and where, what happened, how it ended, and reflection. One of the things I always tell writers is that, after a story’s final action, you should leave the reader with something to think about, give them a moment to reflect. That seven step template is a very effective way to tell a story in a short period of time, and is a terrific place for someone to start.
What are the most important elements of a good story?
Michelle: A good story should build logically, but at the same time take the reader somewhere unexpected – you have to seek honesty, and avoid predictability. A reader can tell if a story feels false somehow, or if it’s trying too hard to convince you of something that isn’t true. There has to be a sense of reason, and yet an inability for the reader to predict where it’s going to go.
What further advice do you have for people trying to tell an engaging story?
Michelle: Play and explore! You do your best work when you’re not thinking too hard. There’s always going to be a point where you have to really think things through carefully – but when you start you should allow yourself a sense of play, until that inspired moment when you start figuring things out.
Interested in reading Michelle’s work? Visit her website. You can sign up for Michelle’s writing classes and one-on-one critique here.