Fiction Fridays: Five Elements of Storytelling – Lessons from the Junior Authors Writers Conference

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Image courtesy of nuttakit /”

On Saturday October 19th, I had the opportunity to visit the first Junior Authors Writers Conference in Richmond, B.C., (part of Metro Vancouver, Canada). This event is the dream of Laura Thomas, founder of Laura Thomas Communications, whose goal is to foster the development of young writers worldwide.

Held in the Sandman Suites’ round conference room, this inaugural event had 72 participants ranging in age from 9 to 18, with a median age of 12.

As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by an eloquent trio of young women who called themselves “the A-team”, because their first names all started with A: Amneet, Avery, and Abbey.

I was there to observe a workshop called, A Story to Learn, Tell and Share, by author and storyteller, Lois Peterson.

The Purpose of Story

Lois is a gifted storyteller who engaged her audience immediately. She took everyone back to a time before electricity, before television, before graphic novels and even before the internet! A time when we were hunter-gatherers and would come together after foraging and hunting for food around a campfire and talk about our days. A time when story was born.

Back then, stories were spoken, and would use paintings on cave walls. That’s how they did it.

Storytelling in Every Day Life

Though we use better tools now, the human need to share is still there. We tell stories all the time, when we tell jokes, do stand up comedy, sing songs. Even telling gossip is a form of storytelling.

It’s a way to understand your world, and what’s going on around you.

The Allure of Story

Story is a unifying force that draws us all together. A great equalizer, leveller, regardless of age. The stories we hear make up the way we see the world.

When you tell a story, in a way, it no longer belongs to you. By the time you tell someone and they retell it, the story will change. Stories are not set in stone. That’s what happened to creation stories. Each time someone shared them, they changed them.

Five Essential Elements of Storytelling

As a storyteller, you have to do certain things for the listener and reader, because people have an intuitive need for things to happen a certain way.

Lois used her remarkable stage presence and told two stories, a creation story, and a personal one, as examples. Both stories had the following five essential elements:

  1. A story begins with somebody who wants something. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that. We start off wanting to write about a girl and her horse, but what does the girl want? A really famous writer once said, everyone needs to want something, even if it’s only a glass of water. It’s really good to have a character who wants something in opposition to what another character wants. Because…
  2. You need obstacles that the main character can overcome. The girl starts off wanting a horse, but you have to give her obstacles to getting that horse. An obstacle should lead to other obstacles.
  3. Details are really important in story. You create a scene that the reader can see or the listener can be part of. The right amount of detail draws your reader into the story. Too much and you will lose their attention. Too little, and they won’t be able to picture what’s going on.
  4. Stories have repetition. The first time you mention something, it’s just a detail. The second time you realize there must be a reason it’s coming up. And the third time, you bring it in to show its significance.
  5. An Ending. At the ending, the character either will or will not achieve their objective. It ties up the story threads and lets the reader know they’re done.

Like any good storyteller, Lois left her presentation with a fine resolution, that left people wanting more.

More information on Lois Peterson’s presentations, can be found on her blog, at:

Those of you in the UK who know any young writers, should check out Laure Thomas’s upcoming UK Conference in May 2014.

Though I’m over twenty-one and therefore no longer eligible to be a participant in a Junior Authors Writers Conference, I must say I was happy to be there, and thrilled to know such a thing existed for young writers.


So, I’m going to ask you to comment: What most inspired you when you were young? If you’re a writer, what inspired you to write? If you’re a dancer, singer, dentist, magician, whatever you do now, what inspired you?

2 thoughts on “Fiction Fridays: Five Elements of Storytelling – Lessons from the Junior Authors Writers Conference

  1. Suzanne Aucoin says:

    Hi Lisa – wanted to say how much I enjoy these posts that you do
    Anytime I try to Like them , Word Press wants me to register, etcetera and I’m not wanting to join another organization – I just want you to know that I’m an avid reader of your posts and I look forward to them
    Thanks for being so creative and so willing to share!!

    Sent from my iPhone
    With Love, Light & Gratitude


  2. Mark Harris says:

    Interesting post Lisa. I like to review the basics every-so-often. It helps me get back on track in my writing – focus on the right things. As for what inspired me most when I was young, hard to say…depends on what you mean by young. The first thing that came to mind was Bugs Bunny…..:)

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