Writing

  • Storyworthy –– Matthew Dicks
    • Tell a story about a real moment of meaning from your life –– a five second moment –– and people will want to hear more.
    • Every great story ever told is essentially about a five second moment in the life of a human being, and the purpose of the story is to bring that moment to the greatest clarity as possible.
      • Change is key.
    • Understanding that stories are about tiny moments is the bedrock upon which all storytelling is built, and yet this is what people fail to understand most when thinking about a story. Instead, the believe that if something interesting or incredible or unbelievable has happened to them, they have a great story. Not true.
    • Big stories contain these tiny, utterly human moments. We may be fooled by whips and snakes and car chases, but if it's a good story, our protagonist is going to experience something deep and meaningful, that the audience relates to - even if they don't fully realize it.
    • If you think you have a story, ask yourself: does it contain a five second moment? A moment of true transformation? Your five second moment may be difficult to find. You may have to dig for it.
    • For us common folk, #writing is often the means to the end. We discover conclusions and resolutions through the process of writing the book.
    • The beginning of a story should be the opposite of the end. Find the opposite of your transformation, revelation or realization, and this is where the story should start. This is what creates an arc in your story, and creates change over time.
    • Even when the ending is all but certain, a good storyteller can grab the audience by the throat and make them temporarily forget that they know damn well how the story is going to end. So the beginning is important, finding that five second moment in your life is critical of course, but in terms of crafting your story, where your story starts is the most important decision you'll make.
    • The first idea is rarely the best idea, it may be the most convenient idea, the easiest to remember or the one you personally like the most, but first ideas are for the lazy. For the complacent, the easily satisfied.
    • A written story is like a lake, readers can step in and out of it at their leisure and the water always remains the same. This stillness and permanence allow for pausing, re-reading, contemplation and the use of outside sources to help with meaning. It also allows the reader to control the speed at which the story is received. #writing
    • An oral story is like a river, it is a constantly flowing torrent of words, when listeners need to step outside of the river to ponder a detail and wonder about something that confuses them, the river continues to flow. When the listener finally steps back into the river, he or she is behind. The water that has flowed by will never be seen again, and as a result, the listener is constantly chasing the story trying to catch up.
      • #comment What about videos? They're "oral stories" that also behave like a written story - continuity can be broken by jumping back and forth, but they also function in a linear, "stored" manner, similar to a book.
    • Practical tips for choosing an opening:
      • Try to start your story with forward movement whenever possible.
      • Don't start by setting expectations.
    • Thirteen Rules for an effective commencement address:
      • Don't compliment yourself
      • Be self-deprecating, but only if its real
      • Don't ask rhetorical questions
      • Offer one granular bit of wisdom, something that is both applicable and memorable
        • Well I did some research, and it turns out that the life expectancy of the "greatest generation" was just 54. Your life expectancy is 76. That means you can take a deep breath, chill out, catch up on TV –– and spend the next 22 years figuring out what you want to do –– and you can still end up matching the achievements of the Greatest Generation.

      • Don't cater any part of your speech to parents of the graduates
      • Make your audience laugh
      • Never mention the weather or the temperature
      • Emotion is good, be enthusiastic, excited, hopeful. Even angry if needed.
      • Speak as if you were speaking to friends
      • Don't describe the "world" graduates will enter. It's ridiculous to assume that the world as you see it resembles the world that this diverse group of people will be entering
      • Don't define terms by quoting a dictionary
      • Don't use a quote you've heard someone else use in a previous commencement. Don't use a quote at all, if possible. Instead, be quotable
      • End your speech in less than the allotted time
    • Stakes are the reason we listen to stories when video games and pizza exist in the world. We could be doing any of those things, but we listen to stories because we want to know what happens next. In the best stories, we just want to hear the next sentence.
    • The Elephant
      • It's the thing that everyone in the room can see - large and obvious. It is a clear statement of the need, want, the problem, the peril or the mystery. It signifies where the story is headed, and it makes it clear to your audience that this is a story, and not a simple musing on a subject.
      • Sometimes the elephant changes as the story progresses, but that doesn't mean it's not there.
    • Backpacks
      • Increase the stakes of the story by increasing the audience's anticipation about a coming event. It makes the audience wonder what'll happen next, and experience the same emotion that the story teller experienced in the moment about to be described.
      • The audience wants the characters to succeed, but the don't really want the characters to succeed. It's struggle and strife that makes a story great. They want to see characters ultimately triumph but not before suffering first - they don't want anything to be easy, because it's the difficulty that's relatable.
    • Breadcrumbs
      • Breadcrumbs are hints at a future event without revealing too much about the story.
    • Hourglasses
      • When a moment (or the moment) comes in the story that the audience has been waiting for, it's time to use an hourglass - to slow things down, and let the audience hang on to every word. Drag out the payoff for as long as possible.
    • Crystal Balls
      • A crystal ball is a false prediction made by a storyteller to cause the audience to wonder if the prediction will be true. It's an assumption the storyteller makes, but establishes wonder in the audience.
      • We as human beings use crystal balls in everyday life - we're prediction machines - so recounting those in-the-moment predictions is critical.
    • Humour
      • Humour is a way of keeping your audience's attention through the story, though it may not add or raise the stakes of a story.
      • Start with a laugh.
      • Make them laugh before you make them cry - contrast these emotions one after the other.
      • Take a breath
      • Stop crying so you can feel something else.
      • Milk cans and a baseball
        • Set up and a punch line. The more milk-cans in your tower, the greater the potential laugh. The better you deliver the blow, the greater your laugh.
        • Take moments of potential humour and make them as funny as possible.
      • Babies and blenders
        • Contrast is great. Often mixing things that don't go well together can create an easy laugh.
      • Humour is optional, heart is nonnegotiable.
    • Five Permissible Lies of True Storytelling
      • Omission
        • Storytellers tell the truth by not telling the whole truth. Remove people, places and moments that are insignificant to the actual story.
      • Compression
        • If the story takes place over large amounts of time, in bits and pieces, it's okay to compress it and shorten the time line to make it more cohesive. If it takes place over large geographies, compress them to make it more understandable.
      • Assumption
        • If you don't know or remember the specifics, but that detail is important to the story, you can make a reasonable assumption. This does not mean the storyteller should assume all details - only when it is critical.
      • Progression
        • Change the order of events in a story if and only if it makes it more comprehensible or emotionally satisfying to the audience, and if the real-life order did not adhere to narrative expectations. The world does not always bend to serve our stories best, so we must sometimes bend reality itself.
      • Conflation
        • Use conflation to push all the emotion of an event into a single time frame, because stories are more entertaining this way. Rather than describing change over a long period of time, we compress all the intellectual and emotional transformation into a smaller bit of time, because this is what audiences expect from stories.
        • "I want me memories of that day to remain accurate, too, except when I'm telling stories."
    • The goal of every storyteller should be to create a cinematic experience in the minds of every listener.
    • Stories are not supposed to start with thesis statements or overwrought aphorisms.
    • Provide a physical location for your stories - without it, it's just an essay.
    • "And" stories have no momentum or movement. But and therefore are words that signal change. The story was heading in one direction, but now it's heading in another. We did this and therefore this new thing happened.
      • They either oppose the previous sentence, or they compile the previous sentences into a new idea.
    • This is effective storytelling: a way of making a story feel as if it's constantly going someplace new, even if the events are linear and predictable.
      • Matt Stone: "It's this causation between each scene that makes a story."
      • It's the interconnectedness of moments that brings meaning to an otherwise linear collection of events connected only by time and space.
    • Saying what something or someone is not is almost always better than saying what someone or something is.
      • I am dumb, ugly and unpopular, vs, I'm not smart, I'm not at all good-looking and no one likes me.
      • By presenting a binary option, negatives provide depth and potential to a story. They infuse is with movement, momentum and action. The audience feels as if they're going places.
    • The more you tell, the better the audience knows you, particularly given the nature of the stories we tell. [[Show Your Work - Austin Kleon]]
    • Storytelling is not about a rollercoaster of emotions or excitement, it's about bridging the gap between you and another person by creating a space of authenticity, vulnerability and universal truth. The trick to storytelling: the story cannot be about anything big. Instead, we must find the small, relatable, comprehensible moments in our larger stories.
    • The longer you speak, the more perfect and precise you have to be. The longer you stand in front of an audience, the more entertaining and engaging your words must be - so speak less and make time your ally.
    • Storytelling is the opposite of a five-paragraph essay. Instead of opening with a thesis statement and then supporting it with evidence, storytellers provide the evidence first and then sometimes offer then thesis statement later only when necessary.
      • Thesis statements ruin the surprise every time - our job is to describe the action, dialogue, and thought. It is never our job to summarize these things.
      • Avoid thesis statements, and heighten the contrast between the surprise and the moment just before the surprise. Use stakes to increase the surprise, and avoid giving it away by hiding important information along the way that will pay off later.
    • Just tell your story - all of it. Forget the strategies. Start in the wrong place and end in the long place - ramble. The goal is to return to that moment as best as possible in order to find its meaning.
    • The other way of discovering the #meaning of a moment is to ask yourself why you do the things you do.
      • We contextualize events, find satisfying endings to periods of our lives and struggle to explain how our lives make sense and fit into a larger story.
      • #comment Both the means and the end of storytelling is finding meaning.
  • Storyworthy –– Matthew Dicks
    • Tell a story about a real moment of meaning from your life –– a five second moment –– and people will want to hear more.
    • Every great story ever told is essentially about a five second moment in the life of a human being, and the purpose of the story is to bring that moment to the greatest clarity as possible.
      • Change is key.
    • Understanding that stories are about tiny moments is the bedrock upon which all storytelling is built, and yet this is what people fail to understand most when thinking about a story. Instead, the believe that if something interesting or incredible or unbelievable has happened to them, they have a great story. Not true.
    • Big stories contain these tiny, utterly human moments. We may be fooled by whips and snakes and car chases, but if it's a good story, our protagonist is going to experience something deep and meaningful, that the audience relates to - even if they don't fully realize it.
    • If you think you have a story, ask yourself: does it contain a five second moment? A moment of true transformation? Your five second moment may be difficult to find. You may have to dig for it.
    • For us common folk, #writing is often the means to the end. We discover conclusions and resolutions through the process of writing the book.
    • The beginning of a story should be the opposite of the end. Find the opposite of your transformation, revelation or realization, and this is where the story should start. This is what creates an arc in your story, and creates change over time.
    • Even when the ending is all but certain, a good storyteller can grab the audience by the throat and make them temporarily forget that they know damn well how the story is going to end. So the beginning is important, finding that five second moment in your life is critical of course, but in terms of crafting your story, where your story starts is the most important decision you'll make.
    • The first idea is rarely the best idea, it may be the most convenient idea, the easiest to remember or the one you personally like the most, but first ideas are for the lazy. For the complacent, the easily satisfied.
    • A written story is like a lake, readers can step in and out of it at their leisure and the water always remains the same. This stillness and permanence allow for pausing, re-reading, contemplation and the use of outside sources to help with meaning. It also allows the reader to control the speed at which the story is received. #writing
    • An oral story is like a river, it is a constantly flowing torrent of words, when listeners need to step outside of the river to ponder a detail and wonder about something that confuses them, the river continues to flow. When the listener finally steps back into the river, he or she is behind. The water that has flowed by will never be seen again, and as a result, the listener is constantly chasing the story trying to catch up.
      • #comment What about videos? They're "oral stories" that also behave like a written story - continuity can be broken by jumping back and forth, but they also function in a linear, "stored" manner, similar to a book.
    • Practical tips for choosing an opening:
      • Try to start your story with forward movement whenever possible.
      • Don't start by setting expectations.
    • Thirteen Rules for an effective commencement address:
      • Don't compliment yourself
      • Be self-deprecating, but only if its real
      • Don't ask rhetorical questions
      • Offer one granular bit of wisdom, something that is both applicable and memorable
        • Well I did some research, and it turns out that the life expectancy of the "greatest generation" was just 54. Your life expectancy is 76. That means you can take a deep breath, chill out, catch up on TV –– and spend the next 22 years figuring out what you want to do –– and you can still end up matching the achievements of the Greatest Generation.

      • Don't cater any part of your speech to parents of the graduates
      • Make your audience laugh
      • Never mention the weather or the temperature
      • Emotion is good, be enthusiastic, excited, hopeful. Even angry if needed.
      • Speak as if you were speaking to friends
      • Don't describe the "world" graduates will enter. It's ridiculous to assume that the world as you see it resembles the world that this diverse group of people will be entering
      • Don't define terms by quoting a dictionary
      • Don't use a quote you've heard someone else use in a previous commencement. Don't use a quote at all, if possible. Instead, be quotable
      • End your speech in less than the allotted time
    • Stakes are the reason we listen to stories when video games and pizza exist in the world. We could be doing any of those things, but we listen to stories because we want to know what happens next. In the best stories, we just want to hear the next sentence.
    • The Elephant
      • It's the thing that everyone in the room can see - large and obvious. It is a clear statement of the need, want, the problem, the peril or the mystery. It signifies where the story is headed, and it makes it clear to your audience that this is a story, and not a simple musing on a subject.
      • Sometimes the elephant changes as the story progresses, but that doesn't mean it's not there.
    • Backpacks
      • Increase the stakes of the story by increasing the audience's anticipation about a coming event. It makes the audience wonder what'll happen next, and experience the same emotion that the story teller experienced in the moment about to be described.
      • The audience wants the characters to succeed, but the don't really want the characters to succeed. It's struggle and strife that makes a story great. They want to see characters ultimately triumph but not before suffering first - they don't want anything to be easy, because it's the difficulty that's relatable.
    • Breadcrumbs
      • Breadcrumbs are hints at a future event without revealing too much about the story.
    • Hourglasses
      • When a moment (or the moment) comes in the story that the audience has been waiting for, it's time to use an hourglass - to slow things down, and let the audience hang on to every word. Drag out the payoff for as long as possible.
    • Crystal Balls
      • A crystal ball is a false prediction made by a storyteller to cause the audience to wonder if the prediction will be true. It's an assumption the storyteller makes, but establishes wonder in the audience.
      • We as human beings use crystal balls in everyday life - we're prediction machines - so recounting those in-the-moment predictions is critical.
    • Humour
      • Humour is a way of keeping your audience's attention through the story, though it may not add or raise the stakes of a story.
      • Start with a laugh.
      • Make them laugh before you make them cry - contrast these emotions one after the other.
      • Take a breath
      • Stop crying so you can feel something else.
      • Milk cans and a baseball
        • Set up and a punch line. The more milk-cans in your tower, the greater the potential laugh. The better you deliver the blow, the greater your laugh.
        • Take moments of potential humour and make them as funny as possible.
      • Babies and blenders
        • Contrast is great. Often mixing things that don't go well together can create an easy laugh.
      • Humour is optional, heart is nonnegotiable.
    • Five Permissible Lies of True Storytelling
      • Omission
        • Storytellers tell the truth by not telling the whole truth. Remove people, places and moments that are insignificant to the actual story.
      • Compression
        • If the story takes place over large amounts of time, in bits and pieces, it's okay to compress it and shorten the time line to make it more cohesive. If it takes place over large geographies, compress them to make it more understandable.
      • Assumption
        • If you don't know or remember the specifics, but that detail is important to the story, you can make a reasonable assumption. This does not mean the storyteller should assume all details - only when it is critical.
      • Progression
        • Change the order of events in a story if and only if it makes it more comprehensible or emotionally satisfying to the audience, and if the real-life order did not adhere to narrative expectations. The world does not always bend to serve our stories best, so we must sometimes bend reality itself.
      • Conflation
        • Use conflation to push all the emotion of an event into a single time frame, because stories are more entertaining this way. Rather than describing change over a long period of time, we compress all the intellectual and emotional transformation into a smaller bit of time, because this is what audiences expect from stories.
        • "I want me memories of that day to remain accurate, too, except when I'm telling stories."
    • The goal of every storyteller should be to create a cinematic experience in the minds of every listener.
    • Stories are not supposed to start with thesis statements or overwrought aphorisms.
    • Provide a physical location for your stories - without it, it's just an essay.
    • "And" stories have no momentum or movement. But and therefore are words that signal change. The story was heading in one direction, but now it's heading in another. We did this and therefore this new thing happened.
      • They either oppose the previous sentence, or they compile the previous sentences into a new idea.
    • This is effective storytelling: a way of making a story feel as if it's constantly going someplace new, even if the events are linear and predictable.
      • Matt Stone: "It's this causation between each scene that makes a story."
      • It's the interconnectedness of moments that brings meaning to an otherwise linear collection of events connected only by time and space.
    • Saying what something or someone is not is almost always better than saying what someone or something is.
      • I am dumb, ugly and unpopular, vs, I'm not smart, I'm not at all good-looking and no one likes me.
      • By presenting a binary option, negatives provide depth and potential to a story. They infuse is with movement, momentum and action. The audience feels as if they're going places.
    • The more you tell, the better the audience knows you, particularly given the nature of the stories we tell. [[Show Your Work - Austin Kleon]]
    • Storytelling is not about a rollercoaster of emotions or excitement, it's about bridging the gap between you and another person by creating a space of authenticity, vulnerability and universal truth. The trick to storytelling: the story cannot be about anything big. Instead, we must find the small, relatable, comprehensible moments in our larger stories.
    • The longer you speak, the more perfect and precise you have to be. The longer you stand in front of an audience, the more entertaining and engaging your words must be - so speak less and make time your ally.
    • Storytelling is the opposite of a five-paragraph essay. Instead of opening with a thesis statement and then supporting it with evidence, storytellers provide the evidence first and then sometimes offer then thesis statement later only when necessary.
      • Thesis statements ruin the surprise every time - our job is to describe the action, dialogue, and thought. It is never our job to summarize these things.
      • Avoid thesis statements, and heighten the contrast between the surprise and the moment just before the surprise. Use stakes to increase the surprise, and avoid giving it away by hiding important information along the way that will pay off later.
    • Just tell your story - all of it. Forget the strategies. Start in the wrong place and end in the long place - ramble. The goal is to return to that moment as best as possible in order to find its meaning.
    • The other way of discovering the #meaning of a moment is to ask yourself why you do the things you do.
      • We contextualize events, find satisfying endings to periods of our lives and struggle to explain how our lives make sense and fit into a larger story.
      • #comment Both the means and the end of storytelling is finding meaning.
  • Adventures in Learning to Write Better