Storytelling Tips

Stories told at The Monti are held to the highest literary standard, which is why the audience is peppered with writers, poets, and artists looking for creative inspiration.  This is one of the finest literary events around!”  Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish

First and foremost, The Monti is a place to tell stories without the use of notes, so if you cannot do that, you cannot tell a story at The Monti. 

  • Start with a compelling beginning.  You only have 5 minutes, so you need to get right into the action from the very first line.  The first line of any story, long or short, is one of the two most important lines of your story (the other is the last line.) 

Examples of a great first line:

My troubles began when, in a drunken haze, I had my mother’s face tattooed on my lower back.”

I had held on to my secret for five years until the torture became so unbearable that I spiraled into a deep Depression.”

If my father was a comic book villain, he would be the ugliest and most hated villain in animation history.”

My boyfriend turned to me in bed, right after we had sex, and told me he was gay.”

Like it or not, those are some good first lines.  Your story must start fast and strong in order to be to compelling.  Your beginning needs to set up what’s at stake; it needs to grab and hold.

CAUTION! Avoid the following opening line AT ALL COSTS: “This is a story about _________.”  It’s tempting, I know, but please avoid giving us the Cliff Notes before telling the actual story.  The only occasion, in my opinion, where it is appropriate to say that line is when you are being ironic and the actual story is not really about what you tell us it is about. 

  • Make sure you know what your story is about!  Everything you say in your story should support the central plotline that you establish.  Many stories are about a single event and take us from Point A to Point B, but some of the best stories are a series of anecdotes that are stitched together to support the central theme of your story. 
  • Don’t ramble.  Choose your words wisely.  Practicing ahead of time will help you show up prepared.    
  • No stand-up comedy!  This is a place for narratives not shtick.  We like you to be funny, but the comedic element to your story should come from the events in the narrative.
  • Save the therapy for therapy.  If you are going to take your anger out on stage, channel it into a real narrative.  Please, no rants!
  • Kill ‘em with the last line!  The ending to your story is as important, if not more so, than the beginning and middle.  It may take up the least amount of time, but a blown ending could ruin a whole story.  How much resolution and revelation to reveal is an artform.  Make sure you remind yourself what the story is about and ask yourself if your last few lines contribute to the story’s meaning.  If not, you need to find a different ending.