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Storytelling tips

Vanessa WoolfIf you're often in pain it can be hard to put into words how it makes you feel. We know that it can be difficult to talk about how arthritis affects your life, so we've worked with professional storyteller Vanessa Woolf, who has shared her tips on how to put your experience of arthritis into words.

Vanessa says: “Imagine yourself strolling through the park with someone you don’t know very well, discussing general topics…the conversation flags and suddenly, they look up and give you an extraordinary insight about their life. From that time on, you see them differently.”

Vanessa's top 5 storytelling tips

1) Choose a moment of change, big or small

Sketch the detail about the start and end, then focus on a moment that is meaningful for you. It might be the challenge of walking around the shops, the joy of preparing a curry or even the achievement of taking part in a sporting activity. Big or small, if it made a difference, it matters and Arthritis Research UK really wants to hear about it.

Did this moment help you realise something about yourself or your illness? Was it the best part of your day or the worst? Hearing about these moments helps the charity’s researchers and can inspire other people too.

2) Be sensory

Feelings can be difficult to describe – but they're at the heart of your story! Try to focus on a specific moment and add something sensory to make it come to life. Was it the feeling of the sun on your hair when you went for a walk? Or an encouraging smile from someone you loved? Or the smell of a cake you baked?

3) Choose your words

Intense feelings like pain can be difficult to describe and understand. There are things you can do to make it real for your audience.

Try to choose your words carefully – was it like a burn or a bruise? Was it constant or stabbing? When you want to describe the intensity, try using actions, for example: “It made me catch my breath.” Your specific descriptions will be very helpful to the charity’s researchers to help them understand your everyday experiences and where more research needs to be done.

4) Be truthful

Don’t worry about using long words or “jazzing it up”. Stick to the facts, even if they don’t seem very impressive. The truth, whatever it is, has a special power. Trust the truth – your audience will be drawn in.

5) Believe in your story

Your unique story deserves to be heard. It could give someone else the permission they need to speak out or ask for help. It could provide reassurance or comfort to someone you don’t even know. And crucially, your story will help researchers find different ways to treat the pain of arthritis and improve people’s lives. So be brave and be honest!

Everyone has a tale to tell, especially you

This National Arthritis Week, we want you to share your pain – how it impacts your day, the challenges you face and the triumphs you experience.

Believe in your story. It’s a vital encouragement for other people, helps build community and a sense of belonging…and crucially we'll use your stories to guide the research we fund in 2016 and find new ways to beat the pain.

Share your day, shape our future.

Back to National Arthritis Week 2015

How our research is targeting the pain of arthritis

Professor Phil Conaghan

Professor Philip Conaghan is running clinical trials to investigate whether existing drugs for other conditions can be repurposed to target the pain of osteoarthritis.

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Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.