The Science of Storytelling Book Summary - The Science of Storytelling Book explained in key points
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The Science of Storytelling summary

Will Storr

The scientific underpinnings of a good story

4.2 (534 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

"The Science of Storytelling" by Will Storr explores the art of storytelling and how it impacts the human brain and behavior. Through research and examples, it offers insights into how to craft compelling narratives that leave a lasting impact.

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    The Science of Storytelling
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    Our brains are built to enjoy stories.

    Have you ever wondered if what you experience as real is in fact just a powerful simulation? You may be surprised to learn that it’s not just a conspiracy – it’s true. 

    Objective reality is impossible for us to see. The reality we experience is just a story that our brain tells us. You’ll have encountered this phenomenon if you’ve ever mistaken a bush for a shadowy human figure while walking alone at night. You didn’t just think you saw the figure – for a moment you actually saw it. 

    Our brain casts us as the hero of the narrative of the reality it creates. To do so, it will reconfigure our past choices to fit our heroic narrative, telling us, for example, that it was okay to steal from our boss because he profits unfairly from our work. Even convicts rate themselves as above average for qualities like morality or kindness, even though they have made clear transgressions in those categories.

    Our brain also seeks to create a linear plot in our lives, ordering our memories into cause and effect sequences. This capacity to find cause and effect even where it doesn’t exist was demonstrated by two Soviet filmmakers in the early 1900s. They screened a series of films for an audience where each film showed an actor’s expressionless face alongside stock footage of various scenes, like one showing a bowl of soup, or another of a woman lying in a coffin. The audience gushed at the actor’s skills, marveling at his mournful expression over the coffin or his thoughtful look over the soup. 

    The story our brain creates includes not just us, the hero, but other characters. We’re surrounded by other people, and one of our deepest urges is to understand how their minds work. It’s one of the ways our brains seek to control our environment.

    Why are we driven to understand other people? The answer is rooted in survival. Our species has lived on because of human cooperation, and as we moved into fixed settlements, having social skills for trading and negotiations became a valuable asset. In humans of all ages, the urge to understand others is so overwhelming that we even project human feelings onto inanimate objects, like a “vengeful” door swinging back to hit us after we slam it.  

    Stories give us an opportunity to satisfy our itch to understand the minds of others. And there’s a particular type of character we are drawn to – one with flaws. 

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    What is The Science of Storytelling about?

    The Science of Storytelling (2019) shows you how to craft a compelling story using lessons from psychology and neuroscience. These blinks walk you through the steps of creating a narrative that grips your audience by subtly manipulating their brains. From demonstrating how to create a perfectly flawed character to explaining the power of stimulating details, Will Storr reveals the crucial elements that go into building a great story. 

    The Science of Storytelling Review

    The Science of Storytelling (2019) by Will Storr explores the fascinating world of storytelling and its impact on human behavior. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • It delves into the psychological and scientific aspects of storytelling, providing valuable insights into why stories have such a powerful effect on us.
    • Through a blend of in-depth research, interviews, and historical anecdotes, the book offers a comprehensive understanding of how storytelling shapes our beliefs, actions, and identities.
    • With its engaging and thought-provoking content, the book challenges conventional notions about storytelling, making it a captivating and informative read.

    Who should read The Science of Storytelling?

    • Aspiring writers
    • Creatives whose work involves storytelling, like journalists or advertisers
    • Anyone who wants to look at stories more critically

    About the Author

    Will Storr is an award-winning writer and journalist who has won prizes such as the AFM award for Best Investigative Journalism and a National Press Club award for excellence. His writing has appeared in outlets like The New York Times and The Guardian and he is the author of several critically acclaimed books, such as Selfie: How the West Became Self Obsessed, and his novel The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone. In addition to writing, he teaches storytelling classes and leads workshops on the Science of Storytelling.  

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    The Science of Storytelling FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Science of Storytelling?

    Understanding the science behind storytelling can help us create more powerful and impactful narratives.

    How long does it take to read The Science of Storytelling?

    The reading time for The Science of Storytelling varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Science of Storytelling a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Science of Storytelling is worth reading because it provides valuable insights into the art and psychology of storytelling.

    Who is the author of The Science of Storytelling?

    The author of The Science of Storytelling is Will Storr.

    What to read after The Science of Storytelling?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Science of Storytelling, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks
    • Lawyers, Liars and the Art of Storytelling by Jonathan Shapiro
    • Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
    • Becoming by Michelle Obama
    • The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall
    • Stories for Work by Gabrielle Dolan
    • Wired for Story by Lisa Cron