Setup There's only one important rule for a story setup: Keep it brief. And I mean really brief, as in "So, I took my car in for a brake job ..." That's it. Don't tell us the problem with the brakes. Don't tell us what made you think you had a brake problem, unless for some reason it is relevant. Try to keep your setup to one sentence, two at most. Pattern Establish a pattern that your story will violate. For example, you could say, "Whenever I take my car for any kind of service, I'm always amazed how expensive it is." That establishes the pattern. Now we know that what follows will be a violation of the pattern. And we call that hint of things to come ... Foreshadowing Foreshadowing means you leave some clues about where the story is going. The foreshadowing can happen as early as the setup, as in "My in-laws in Arkansas have something they call the 'fraidy hole' that everyone climbs into in case of tornadoes. It's meant to hold no more than four people." That's the setup with the foreshadowing built in. The Characters Every story involves characters, and you might be one of them. For people who know all of your foibles, defects, and preferences, no elaboration is required. But if you are talking to strangers or talking about unfamiliar others, fill in the story with some character traits that will be relevant. For example, "Our friend Bob has been borrowing our power tools for years because he's too cheap to buy his own." That sort of brief character profile is essential to any story that involves people. All good stories are about personalities. Relatability There is one topic that people care more about than any other: themselves. Pick story topics that your listeners will relate to. If your story is about dealing with a stubborn bureaucrat, most adults can relate to it no matter the bureaucracy involved. But if your story is about the inner workings of competitive quilting, you'd better make it short and extra witty. People drift off when you stop talking about stuff that isn't, well, them. The Twist Your story isn't a story unless something unexpected or unusual happens. That's the plot twist. If you don't have a twist, it's not a story. It's just a regurgitation of your day. That's fine for catching up with a spouse, but it won't make you the life of a party.