5 exercises to improve your storytelling skills

Writers can always benefit from new sources of inspiration. Old photos, names on headstones, even simple people-watching can ignite a narrative. Here is some literary kindling.

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Football players practice ballet. Pianists repeat small sections of music until it’s perfect.

In “Outliers,” it’s called “putting in your 10,000 hours.” In “The Talent Code,” Daniel Coyle names it “deep practice,” small exercises that are both challenging and repetitive.

The goal: to get better, quicker.

As Coyle writes in “The Talent Code”:

Deep practice feels a bit like exploring a dark and unfamiliar room. You start slowly, you bump into furniture, stop, think, and start again. Slowly, and a little painfully, you explore the space over and over, attending to errors, extending your reach into the room a bit farther each time, building a mental map until you can move through it quickly and intuitively.

What about writers? How do we pursue deep practice?

Tired of the same advice to “read more” and “write more,” I’ve been experimenting with my own challenging and repetitive exercises to improve my storytelling.

Here are the five techniques I use:

1. Observe people.

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