Published by: Julia
People love stories, especially funny ones. Tell them well and people will listen to you and come back for more. David Sedaris’ masterclass shows you how to master the art of storytelling, in many different forms.
The skills he teaches are not just for writers or stand-up comics. Although they will learn a huge amount.
Anyone that wants to influence others can use what he teaches to get their points across more effectively and be remembered. Great for business leaders, teachers, and many other professionals.
About your storytelling masterclass teacher David Sedaris
Over the years, David has written for most mediums. He started his career by co-publishing 9 books with his sister Amy. Later, he dabbled in short stories and wrote radio shows for the BBC and essays for The New Yorker.
In 2018, he was awarded the Terry Southern Prize for Humor and the Medal for Spoken Language by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. To say he is a consummate storyteller is to undersell what David does. He is a tour-de-force and I am pleased to say an excellent teacher too. David´s masterclass was highly enjoyable and very informative.
Everyone has something to say
I write a fair amount, mostly articles for other people´s websites and company literature. It is interesting work, but, before I took this masterclass I never seriously considered writing anything else.
However, I have decided to give it a go, using what I have learned from taking the numerous writing courses masterclass.com has to offer I am fairly certain that I now have the skills to write something a bit more interesting. And David removed the last barrier (excuse) for not doing so. He said :
I don´t feel like I am the kind of person who writes because the world needs to know what I have to say…but I never let that stop me.David Sedaris – masterclasss.com
Basically, his point is that he does not have anything special to say. There are funnier and better-educated writers out there than him. But, he has never let that stop him. The fact that readers like different things means that there is an audience out there for every writer. All you need to do is to practice your craft and keep on putting what you write out there. Over time, it will find its audience.
Take Terry Pratchett as an example. He published the first of his 57 full-length books in 1971. He had quite a bit of early success, but it took another 14 years for the popularity of his books to begin to soar. Once he found his audience, there was no stopping him, or his career.
How to become a humor writer
Writing is an art. Not an easy one to master. It is even harder if you want to write mainly humor. David´s approach is a deceptively simple one. Watch funny people and imitate them. Provided you practice your craft daily you will, in time, find your way. You will learn to become more observant to see the potential for humor in your everyday life.
He also explains how to use exaggeration to tell an interesting story and make people laugh. David explains how you do this without going too far and losing your audience. He provides you with several great examples.
Ways to find your voice as a writer
In order to write well, you need to let go of perfection and just write. Freeing yourself from perfection at the start of the writing process enables the ideas to flow more freely. The more you write, the better. Weaving writing into your day and writing quickly helps you to learn and hone your skills faster.
Keeping a diary is an excellent way to do this. David explains how to make the most of yours.
Throughout his masterclass, he shares various writing exercises. The great thing about them is that you can easily fit them into your everyday life. His first suggestion is that you observe a stranger and write about them. It only has to be a few lines, so it should not take long. This exercises both your observational and writing skills.
Tools to help you to become a better writer
I especially liked the fact that David shares some of the tools he uses with his students. I particularly like the FocusWriter app that he recommends. It really does help you to concentrate on the task in hand. Being able to set word count as well as time goals has proved to be especially helpful for me.
How to find inspiration
Inspiration is all around you. But it helps if you know exactly where to find it. David shows you some less than obvious ways to do that.
He is like a sponge, but also actively seeks out the company of strangers and totally new experiences. This opens up the chance to stimulate your mind in fresh ways. His tips on how to get inspiration from other writers are particularly good.
You need to be in the world, and you need to be engaged with the world. It’s my job to collect jokes. It’s my job to collect startling images. And so, when I’m out in the world, I’m at work. And I’m a professional.David Sedaris – Storytelling Masterclass
Turning that inspiration into a story
David suggests that you start by writing essays or short stories. This is good advice. It is an excellent way to practice the advice that he shares about how to turn the ideas and inspiration you have found into a story that touches people and captures their imagination.
At this stage, I need to make the point that David’s essays are mostly what a lot of people would call a comedy sketch or set. But, he also writes observational essays.
Even if you are planning to create a longer story, often writing an essay first is a good approach. It gives you a chance to hone your ideas and explore the different directions you could take with it.
One thing I need to make clear is that
How to write with honesty
Every writer needs to connect with their readers. David believes that honesty helps you to do this.
Avoiding the pitfalls of writing about real people
The fact that you are taking most of your inspiration from real life means that a lot of the time your characters will be recognizable. You need to be sensitive to this fact and handle things delicately.
David shares some clever ways to get the balance right. To be able to learn to write about the people you know and meet without causing offense or losing them as a friend or source. A big part of that is celebrating the people that you write about.
How to breathe life into your characters
To be truly engaging, you need to make your characters believable as well as interesting. On some level, they have to be recognizable to the reader. if they are not, your audience will struggle to connect with them. Again, observation plays a big role.
David Sedaris writing process explained
David holds nothing back when it comes to his writing process. During this course, he takes you through each step. If you are short on time, cut ahead to the story evolution “Active Shooter” video. This was the most helpful part of the course. In it, David shows you how to test and evolve an essay or storyline. Later, when you have more time, you can go back and go through the entire course.
At this stage, I have to warn you that a fair percentage of David’s masterclass consists of him reading through his work. This may get a bit irritating, but, if you stick with it you will realize that he’s bit doing this out of vanity. He is doing it with a purpose. I personally find it easier to learn from examples, so it works for me. But it may annoy you a bit.
A behind the scenes look at David’s creative process
I was stunned to learn that David reworks things during live stand-up performances. If you are a comedian, this section is bound to contain some gems you can use. For example, David shares how he interprets his audience’s responses and adjusts what he is saying accordingly.
He explains how he pulls together a set of disparate incidents and turns them into what he calls essays. What a lot of people would call a stand-up set.
How to come up with a strong ending for your stories
If you want people to keep coming back, you need to make your stories memorable. Finishing strong is a great way to do this.
David shares some examples of strong endings. Personally, I found what he shared about his sister Veronica, who was clearly a very troubled person, to be difficult to hear. But, the example he used that involved her perfectly demonstrated how to finish a story in a memorable way.
Why you need to rewrite
I am not much of a rewriter, so I was not keen to hear that David rewrites things up to 60 times. It was an unwelcome piece of advice. But, gradually I understood why you need to be prepared to rewrite so many times.
For example, why saying someone was in the basement watching I Dream of Jeannie, would not work for all audiences. If someone is too young or not from a country where the show is shown there is no way they could get your joke. Throughout the course, David shares many of these little, but very important, writing tips.
How to grow as a writer
If you have been writing or performing for a while, there is a fair chance you are going to get into a bit of a rut. We all tend to fall into the habit of taking the easy way out. When that happens, you soon start to bore people.
David shows you how to avoid falling into this trap. One of his biggest tips is to stay in touch with the people who read or follow your work. He makes sure he goes where his audience is. If he does a book signing he takes the time to actually speak to the people who turn up at the table.
Learning patience and perseverance
If you want your books to be real page-turners, you need to hone what you write. That means rewriting it until it is right.
I have used my all-access pass to take all of the writing masterclasses. Buying the pass, was a great move because I got to take all 12 courses for the same price it would have cost to take just 2 courses. In fact, you can take all 70+ masterclasses using that pass. You can find out more about it here.
All of these writers, including Dan Brown, Neil Gaiman, and Margaret Attwood all rewrite their stories many times. They, like David, plan carefully, do their research and are very disciplined. But, they all have an editing process that they follow to polish their story.
David´s special tips
David works at his craft every day and over the years has developed habits that have helped him to build up a rich treasure chest of ideas. He shares many of them with his students. Here are just a few examples:
- How to keep a daily diary to inspire you
- How to capture ideas before they are gone
- How to use the world around you for inspiration
How to get the most out of David´s storytelling masterclass
If you want to get the most out of this course, I highly suggest that you read some of David´s books. When you do things make a lot more sense. I took his masterclass around the festive season. So, I read Holidays on Ice, which is a collection of Christmas-themed essays. David has written a lot of different essays and stories, so you are bound to be able to find something that you like.