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Best compliment a storyteller can receive

Someone sent me this message about a story I have posted on my YouTube channel:

“Love this story. Didn’t know where it was going but was with you every moment. Great ending!”

I cannot imagine a better compliment for a storyteller.

There are lots of things that go into crafting and telling a great story. A multitude of things, really, but if I could choose just one thing to get right, it would be this:

My audience was trapped in a constant state of wonder, suspense, and surprise that ultimately led them to the perfect ending.

I want to grab an audience’s attention early on. I want them to laugh. I want them to cry. I want to hear a gasp or two somewhere along the way. Maybe even a groan. I want to describe things with striking clarity and the fewest words possible. I want my story to connect and resonate with an audience. I want to be authentic and vulnerable. I want people to be thinking about my story long after I’ve finished speaking. I want my story to change the way they see themselves or the world. I want to deploy an escalating series of stakes that maintain tension. I want the dialogue to be crisp. I want my word choice to be specific and clear. I want to pace the story well. Structure it effectively. Include ideal anecdotes. Choose the right chronology. Connect emotionally with the story as I tell it. I want to make good use of volume and tone. Pause at just the right moments. Remember the damn thing.

All of this and so much more.

But if I could choose just one thing to get right, give me “Didn’t know where it was going but was with you every moment” every time.

None of the rest is relevant if your audience isn’t hanging on your every word. Nothing matters if your audience has stopped caring. You can be vulnerable and hilarious and crafty beyond measure, but if they aren’t paying attention, then you might as well stop talking.

Everything flows from your ability to hold an audience’s attention through wonder, suspense, and surprise and the audience’s subsequent desire to listen to you speak.

Make that your first, last, and most important goal.