Monday, March 9, 2020

Storytelling for Authors, Part 1

by Yvonne Ortega @YvonneOrtega1

Have you ever spoken to a group to promote your business or ministry and wished you hadn’t?

A little over twenty years ago, I spoke for a conference and hoped it would launch my career. It didn’t. I rambled on and on. I had the passion to speak, but no storytelling techniques.

Fast forward to today. I spoke for a breast cancer event. I held their attention from start to finish, motivated the audience to move from broken to beautiful through cancer, and received a standing ovation. When I spoke at a women’s brunch. I hooked the audience from the first sentence, interacted with them, and presented a clear message.

What made the difference? 

I learned the 9 Cs of Storytelling for Speakers. 

You, too, can learn the 9 Cs of Storytelling and apply them to your next presentation. You will feel more confident when you can capture your audience’s attention, interact with them, and present a clear message.

The first C of Storytelling is Curiosity. 
A question will stir up the curiosity of your audience. In my story, “Moving from Broken to Beautiful through Grief,” I asked, “Have you ever been hurt by someone you trusted, loved, and respected? Did you struggle with anger?”

To hook the audience, you can start with the words, “Have you ever . . .?” Take time to write an opening question for your next presentation.

Now pick a partner from your critique or writing group. Call or email the person, share your opening question, and get feedback. Be open to suggestions.
Let’s look at the second C, Circumstance. 
To have a message, you need a mess with age. Go through the details of your mess and get to the circumstance. In my story, “Moving from Broken to Beautiful through Grief,” I said, “I stood in the kitchen on a long-distance call with my ex-husband about our son, Brian’s death. He said, ‘I’m planning his service and burial.’ I tightened my grip on the cold kitchen counter.”

Think of your circumstance. What was the mess? Include at least one or two of the four senses in your story. Three of the four would be great. Craig Valentine, an International speaking coach and master storyteller, calls the senses “the V.A.K.S:” visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and smell. He doesn’t say, “Olfactory,” because V.A.K.S. sounds better than V.A.K.O.

Be able to present your circumstance in less than twenty seconds. Remember that telling shorter stories makes you more likable, memorable, and repeatable. Write your circumstance and include at least one or two of the V.A.K.S. 

Again, call or email a critique partner or writing group member and share your circumstance for feedback. If you can meet in person, that could help both of you. 

The third C.
Now that you’ve stirred up curiosity and set the circumstance of your story, let’s move on to the third C, Characters. 
To keep your story simple, have only two or three characters. 

Pick the most emotional and visual characteristics of your characters. My story has two characters: me and my ex-husband. Have you ever talked with someone who made you feel unwanted, unloved, and worthless? Meet Mr. Not Nice, my ex-husband.

Since I didn’t want to use his name, I used an adjective name. You can do that, too. One or two emotional descriptive words will help your audience see the character. 

Describe your characters. Perhaps you can pick a partner and meet in person to allow both of you to work on your storytelling techniques, encourage, and support each other.

To wrap up, the Cs of Storytelling for Authors that we covered are:
  • Curiosity-Use a question to stir up the curiosity of your audience.
  • Circumstance-Use a mess with age.
  • Characters-Keep your story simple with only two or three characters.

Yvonne Ortega walks with a small footprint but leaves a giant imprint in people’s lives. This power-packed package is a professional speaker and the author of the Moving from Broken to Beautiful® Series through cancer, divorce, forgiveness, and loss. Learn more at

Yvonne speaks with honesty and humor as she shares her life and struggles through presentations that empower women to find peace, power, and purpose through God’s Word. 

Yvonne’s background as a licensed professional counselor brings a unique perspective into the heart of women. She’s a speaking and writing coach and the owner of Moving from Broken to Beautiful®, LLC. She belongs to the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, the Christian Authors Network, the National Speakers Association, and Toastmasters International.

She celebrates life at the beach, where she walks, builds sand castles, blows bubbles, and dances. 


  1. Great article. This one is a keeper.
    Thanks, Yvonne!

  2. Thanks Yvonne, practicing your storytelling techniques on my family at dinner - and should a speaking event ever arise your articles will be prep must-reads! :)

  3. Thank you for this great article Yvonne. :-)

  4. Excellent post. I can put it right to use this week!

  5. I can see how those C's will make a difference in anyone's speech. Thank you!

  6. You're welcome, Melissa Henderson.

  7. Thank you, Tim Riordan. Have fun putting it to use this week.