10 tips for writing your story


Firstly - thanks. We're delighted. Tenx9 is a night for ordinary people to tell true stories of their life - not fiction, not fable. So - thanks for lending us your story. Here on this page are Ten tips for writing and 9 tips for telling your story. They are simple, but we make sure to ask everybody who tells at Tenx9 to read and practice these.

We love stories and we love real stories. It's wonderful, after a night of Tenx9, to realise how easy it is to remember a real story. We know that lots of people, following a Tenx9 night talk with each other about the stories they particularly remember, the surprises, the sad endings, the funny bits...

You'd be surprised how often it takes to convince people that it's real stories we are after. Sometimes folks want to:

  • Give a live editorial on a theme.
  • Offer a thought that's got no structure.
  • Talk about a theme, but without telling a story.
  • Tell a story so they can convince you about a political, ideological, religious or moral topic.
  • Try to get you to join their group.
  • Have a platform for speaking in public.

Tenx9 is not for those, it's for stories - real stories told in less than 10 minutes, stories with a start, middle and end (although not in that order necessarily!), stories that have the listeners wondering 'What happened next?', 'Why did she do that?', 'Who is that character?', or 'That character sounds just like my Auntie Myrtle'.

So, Ten tips for writing/preparing your story.

  1. Make sure you are telling a true story. Sounds obvious - but just make sure you're not going on a rant, or delivering a manifesto, or giving too much analysis. Tempted to tell two true stories in your ten minutes? Our experience has shown that this can slump.
  2. You don't have to write your story - you're welcome to tell it, or sing it, or dance it... just make sure if you're ad-libbing that you can keep to the point and not waffle. Sometimes ad-libbers have fabulous beginnings and endings but the middle slumps a little.
  3. Remember that we at Tenx9 Melbourne can help you in editing. Write it out - send it to us at tenx9melbourne (@) gmail (.) com and we can make suggestions. If it's your first time, we really recommend this.
  4. Cut out scene or theme setting introductions! We're serious about this - if the audience aren't asking 'why did that happen?' or 'I wonder what happened next', or 'I wonder who that person is' by your second sentence, you're not telling a story. Please make sure you are telling us something about what happened, as opposed to reading a live reflection piece on a topic.
  5. If you're mentioning a person, and that person might be embarrassed to be identified, use a pseudonym. (obviously, if you are exposing the person, it's best to tell the story to a lawyer, not an audience at Tenx9). On the subject of names, make it easy on those of us who forget names quickly - instead of talking about Jack, Joe, Cecilia, Charity, Dev and Alena, think perhaps about how you'd help us remember who you're talking about - the builder, the dancer, the teacher, the vampire etc. You get the drift.
  6. You don't have to give every single detail - the best stories just drop the listeners right into the story without having to give the listeners every single quicksand detail. You also don't have to tell people how to feel. Flannery O'Connor wrote stories in such a way that she trusted the emotional intelligence of those who read her stories to make their own mind up about how they felt or what conclusions they made.
  7. A good opening line is a great start. Use the opening line to bring the audience right into the story. Your 10 minutes starts from the moment you get behind the microphone. A bit of anticipation can help... 'When my boss fired me, I wondered how I'd get my books from the office. But, more about that later. I started the job in 2004...'
  8. We will stop your story if the content is offence, hateful, objectifying or overly crude. So, keep this in mind while you're preparing it. If the story couldn't be told on public radio then it's unlikely to be suitable for Tenx9 - we have a wide variety of people there and while we love juicy stories, we can't have stories whose main point is sexual.
  9. A good ending is important too. For instance at Tenx9 recently the wonderful Sarah finished her story wtih: "He hugged me and then invited me to Tenerife with him." It was a damn fine ending. We knew it and she knew it. Having a good ending also helps you know where you're going.
  10. Ten minutes is about 1400 words - maybe two and a bit pages. Keep that in mind. We have to be strict about the ten minute limit - we will ring a bell to make you stop! Your ten minutes starts from the moment you get behind the microphone so jump right tinto your story. Often people think they've been up for two minutes when in fact, they've already been speaking for 8. So, if you're writing, about 1400 words is a good limit.