Wilf at Cheltenham

Fresh from a sell-out session for schools at The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Read for Good Storyteller Wilf Merttens shares some of his ‘Storytelling Secrets of The Universe’!

What did you do last Tuesday? I co-wrote an epic legend with approximately three hundred and fifty 5-7yr olds. They were an uncommonly enthusiastic and talented hoard, my collaborators.

Our collective efforts took place in a workshop entitled Storytelling Secrets of the Universe as part of the schools programme at the prestigious Cheltenham Literature Festival, a delightful cornucopia of inspiring creative and literary events for all ages. Having been sent there on a mission by Read For Good HQ I was bright orange and bushy-tailed. First, I told my audience all about our work motivating children to read in hospitals and schools all over the UK. Then I asked them if they wanted me to reveal some secrets of storytelling. They were so enthusiastic that I let one or two out of the bag and we just made up a story straight away!

Now, the Ministry of Stories will surely be furious for this, but I’ve decided to let you in on one of the secrets too. Here goes:‘Storytelling Secret 237b: At the heart of every story lies a problem.’ Understand this: it’s the problem that creates the drama and the tension. If you’ve ever made a boring story, then check whether you forgot to put a problem in it. You see, your story is actually just your characters’ attempts to overcome the problem you’ve dropped on them.

The problem in our Cheltenham Festival story was that Tony Stark couldn’t eat his donuts because he was being KICKED by a TREE. It was a KICKING TREE. I’ve had this problem myself and let me tell you, it’s mildly irritating and very surprising. In order to overcome it, Tony Stark had to become Iron Man. Now, Iron Man’s methods were perhaps not the most subtle, but they were dreadfully exciting when we acted them out on the stage. The closing scene saw our hero sitting amidst his defeated foes and chomping on a pile of donuts.

Learn to tell stories like this, and your characters can look forward to some similarly satisfying happily-ever-afters! And one of the best ways to learn how to tell stories is by reading as many stories as you can wherever you can find them! From comics to classics and audiobooks to blogs (just like this one!) Oh, and take part in Readathon if you can!

Wilf Merttens