Storytelling Tip: Turn your blank screen into something interesting


Storytelling Tip: Turn your blank screen into something interesting
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant

Storytelling Tip: Turn your blank screen into something interestingWhen you start writing, you inevitably find yourself looking at a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen. The trick to good writing is to turn that blank space into something interesting.

I’ve been writing for a living for 50 years. I tell people writing is easy. And numerous writers back me up on that.

For example, the late journalist and screenwriter Gene Fowler said: “Writing is easy. You just sit staring at a blank piece of paper until beads of blood form on your forehead.”

Ernest Hemingway felt much the same way: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

After all these years, I find that facing a blank screen can still be intimidating. I’m not alone in feeling that way. So, how do you turn that blank space into something interesting without losing too much of that stuff Fowler and Hemingway mentioned?

Here are some things I do fill in that blank space:

  • Know what you want to say. If you find yourself stuck in front of a blank screen, ask yourself this simple question: What do I want to say? If you can, have a conversation with yourself or a friend out loud. What do you want to say? Just say it even if it sounds silly, trite or a bit crude. Then focus on putting what you want to say on your blank paper or screen. You can go back and tidy it up later. That part’s called editing.
  • Talk on paper. You know how to tell your stories. You do it every day in conversations with friends, family and even with strangers. Writing is just another way of telling your story. Write it the way you would say it if you were talking to your friends. Or, as novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard put it: “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”
  • Say what you mean. We live in a world where we’re expected to be politically correct. One downside is that we sometimes avoid saying what we mean because we’re busy trying to avoid saying anything that might be controversial. Tact is a good thing. Be tactful. But say what you mean. It’ll be more interesting than the bland platitudes you’re tempted to use instead.
  • Leave out the boring stuff. Elmore Leonard said his secret to good writing was to “leave out the parts that people skip.” How do you do that? If it’s not essential to your story and if it doesn’t tell the rest of us something we’ll want to know, you probably can leave it out. That’s what your delete key is for: Getting rid of the boring stuff.

It’s like I said at the beginning: Writing is easy. I’ve been known to lie sometimes. But that shouldn’t stop you from telling your story by just saying what you want to say.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?


Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 |

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

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