2nd Story Writing Guidelines

Below are some things we look for in a 2nd Story story. Please use these in addition to checking out 2nd Story events or listening to our recordings—there’s a specific aesthetic to which our stories adhere, and the best way to understand it is to experience it!


Please read your story aloud and time it before you send it in. We don’t read anything over ten minutes.


Keep in mind, most 2nd Story events take place in bars, clubs, restaurants, or other non-traditional performance spaces. Can the story you’re telling hold an audience’s attention in a venue with a lot of distractions?


We like stories that we haven’t heard before—stories that will bring variety to what we do. If you’ve already heard us tell a certain story, consider choosing a different subject matter.


2nd Story stories are all about scenes.  This means that they contain description of the setting, character development, dialogue and, most importantly, SOMETHING HAPPENS. And just telling us about something that happened isn’t enough—we want Scenes. With Dialogue. And Action. We receive many submissions where the teller just talks at the audience for ten minutes. These submissions don’t get very far. Our Artistic Director uses this shorthand, “If I can stage it, it’s probably a scene.”  Translation: if you could hand your text to someone and they could create a short film that’s a relatively accurate portrayal of what you’re trying to express, it’s probably a scene.  If that is not possible, take another swipe at it.


Keep in mind that this is YOU telling the story. Your voice, your situation, your realizations. We are open to literary techniques to make the best story (like exaggeration for effect, consolidation of characters or timeline, etc.) but YOU are the main character. And though literary techniques are acceptable, we ask that you tell about events that really happened, because we are all about connecting through story—real story.


Yes, we explore different writing and storytelling styles and techniques, but at 2nd Story, we write our stories with the audience in mind. The storyteller is not in a bubble, you’re telling the story TO the audience. They are there, you can see them, they can see you, which means that you can talk to them directly.


Our Artistic Director asks, “Why should anyone besides you and your friends care about this story?” There needs to be a clear idea of what the story is about—what it means (or meant) to you, why it’s important to tell This story in This moment. That is what a larger audience will connect with.

If you have further questions please contact our Director of Programming, or, better yet, come to a 2nd Story event and ask to speak with a member of the Story Development Team.

We look forward to hearing from you!