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The Science of Storytelling

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  220 ratings  ·  41 reviews

‘One of my absolute favourite writers’ Decca Aitkenhead

Who would we be without stories?

Stories mould who we are, from our character to our cultural identity. They drive us to act out our dreams and ambitions, and shape our politics and beliefs. We use them to construct our relationships, to keep order in our law courts, to interpret events in our newspapers and social

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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 4th 2019 by William Collins
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3.98  · 
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 ·  220 ratings  ·  41 reviews


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Lou
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
People have long tried to deduce exactly what makes a great book or a bestseller and most have failed miserably with so many theories doing the rounds that it's almost impossible to know which, if any, have hit the nail on the head. The Science of Storytelling looks at the art of creating a compelling narrative in an entirely different way by using science to break everything down and analyse it. This is an accessible, fascinating and thought-provoking book which is a fantastic resource for writ ...more
Carlos Martinez
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

A nice overview of cognitive psychology and its role in the telling of stories. Will Storr writes well, has good insights, and seems to be a nice sort of bloke. I learnt some interesting stuff.

A couple of awkward moments pulled the overall score down. Storr allows himself to draw a few political conclusions from his outline of psychology, and in so doing moves into heavily subjective territory. Sure, you can talk about wars and conflicts entirely in terms of tribal psychological baggag
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Graine Milner
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating! I first came across this after Holly Bourne mentioned on Twitter that she'd read it, and how good it was. If you enjoy writing fiction, or even if you ever just ask yourself, "why does this book work so well, but others don't?", then this is for you. One to come back to and read again.
Simon Howard
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a book aimed at writers, which discusses and gives advice on the creation of works of fiction, informed by psychological science, a wealth of literary examples, and a good bit of literary theory. Storr also teaches courses on writing fiction, and I think this book is largely based on the content of the course. I'm not the target audience for this book (I've no intention of ever writing works of fiction), but I love Will Storr's writing and so was very excited to read his latest work.

Ther
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K.A. Ashcomb
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Humans make a narrative out of anything. A painting drops from the wall, and we think there are hidden motives behind it. There is an extra susurrus in the darkness, and we see glowing eyes and figures despite there being none. Narration is our surviving power alone and as a group, and it's no wonder we are drawn into stories. And it's no wonder that there are specific kinds of stories that speak to us. Will Storr looked behind the science of storytelling through a social psychology's perspectiv ...more
Siobhan
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Science of Storytelling is a fascinating look at stories, our relationship with them, and how this can be used to tell better stories. Aimed at both storytellers and those interested in how humans tell stories, Storr combines examples from literature and screen stories with psychological research and experiments to make points about the importance of character, change, and other aspects of gripping stories. Myths and archetypes come up, but so do Mr Men and famous lines from Hollywood films. ...more
Gem
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
I found 'The Science of Storytelling' to be really interesting at the start, with thought-provoking statements about the importance of storytelling and the way that our brains perceive it.

As the book moved on there were tonnes of outlines and references to other novels and movies, which (as I haven't read or seen all of them) went over my head a little. It also contains spoilers!!! I skipped over a lot of the quotes and outlines from books that I haven't read yet.

Will Storr's writing style is a
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Yasemin Gyford
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love it. I think everyone who interested with in storytelling should read this.
Kent Beck
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has me thinking about the stories I tell in my daily life, to myself and others. The role of status games is an eye-opener for me. Highly recommended for anyone telling stories
Anjana
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always been fascinated with narration and stories. The holding of a person's attention and them actually enjoying the experience of being the audience is something that is vital to storytelling and I thought this might be related to those things and therefore requested it when I noticed it.

This book focuses primarily on the neurological and psychological aspects of building a story.It deals with examples from a lot of books, which for the most part were very interesting but I did not know
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David Campton
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really stimulating... as someone with an interest in behavioural neuroscience and literature this book was perfect for me. The appendix on Storr's "Sacred Flaw" approach to writing was less interesting, but when I get around to writing "my novel" I will return to it...
Rania Ioannou
The Science of Storytelling is aimed at anyone who is writing or interested in writing stories and to anyone in general who loves to know more about storytelling and the human mind. The well-selected examples from famous books, films and TV series make the author's arguments even more clear. The book provides some useful guidelines on how to build great characters so at a first level I think it is an inspiring read for future authors.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me wi
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Elaine Aldred
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book really does not do justice to its content. Using science in the title might imply a cold, clinical examination of story construction and very dry reading. The reality is that in The Science of Storytelling, Will Storr has created something that is both fascinating and an invaluable sourcebook for both writers and readers.

The Science of Storytelling brings together scientific research from many different angles, weaving it into a narrative which delves deep into a reader’s
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Yzabel Ginsberg
[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Pretty interesting both regarding the science part (how our brains work) and the writing part (how this translated into fiction, and more specifically creating compelling characters with a ‘fatal flaw’). The author illustrates those points with examples from a few well-known books, like ‘Lolita’ and ‘The Remains of the Day’, an approach that could easily be problematic. On the one hand, illustrating the theory with examples
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Adelyne
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
It’s obvious that a lot of good research has gone into writing this book, and Storr has done a fantastic job in condensing it all down into the (relatively short) length of a book. That being said though, I felt there was too much science and too little storytelling for what the book was marketed as – or perhaps it is more meant for writers (or at least people who have had some experience) than is implied on the blurb. Being familiar with reading more technical work, albeit in a different field, ...more
Daniel B-G
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, writing
One of the better writing books I've read. What it does well:
Evidence - all of it is backed up my real research in modern psychology. It has a much wider evidence base than a similar book, wired for story. It is focused both on the psychology of readers - what they expect and need to make the story fly - and the psychology of personal change.
No dead horses were flogged in the making of this book - quite a few writing guides out there feel the need to repeat their major point over and over again.
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Pep
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, other
This is about the psychology of story reading, rather than science involved in the telling, despite Mr Storr's desire to bring in"Who am I?" as the question at the end of the universe responsible for the "42" Douglas Adams claimed was the answer. Since psychology itself is inherently unreliable, an analogy of the following xkcd observation applies: https://xkcd.com/2120/ .

The narrative is definitely beyond the compass of the wannabees attending night school courses in Creative Writing 101, and m
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Tricia
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So much knowledge and insight in one book!

This is a brilliant distillation of current brain science research, psychology, and research into story structure. I had read just about all of these ideas elsewhere, but it's taken me years, and what this book did was to make a beautifully (seemingly) simple narrative which cohered into a convincing argument. It is both practical and scholarly, with extensive footnotes throughout the text. I read on Kindle and it's worth mentioning that you get a pop up
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Félix López
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly recommend this book. It helps you understand who you are, why you are the way you are. It helps understand "naive realism" from the science point of view.
"Brains, conclude the researchers, seem to become spontaneously curious when presented with an 'information set' they realize is incomplete. There is a natural inclination to resolve information gaps."

It creates a mindset in you, now every time I see a movie, series o read something I see this book and all the tricks to keep you engage
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Adele
I'm lucky enough to be seeing Will Storr at the Edinburgh Book Festival Next month! So, I decided to listen to his latest book.

I did enjoy The Science of Story Telling, but I feel like it is more pushing towards a certain demographic of people. If you're planning on or are currently writing your own novel, I think this book would be very helpful and insightful during that process. Apart from that, it's interesting but I did find myself struggling to keep my focus a bit. I could put this down to
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R.j. Morgan
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best writing books I've read, and I've read my fair share! I love the psychological backing and I loved his writing style! It even made me laugh out loud a few times. Fair warning, if you haven't read Remains of the Day or a few other books mentioned but want to...make sure you read it before you read this because there are mega-spoilers! Also, watch Citizen Kane before you read it if you haven't already.
Scott Place
Enjoyable and interesting, and easy to read with some well-informed science. I enjoyed the parts on psychology and it was interesting to see how the human psychology is manipulated and exploited in good writing. I did, at times, find this book somewhat repetitive. The content is strong, but it seemed like the same points were being hammered home a little too hard where broader content could have been fitting.
Falynn - the TyGrammarSaurus Rex
Fascinating book which draws lines between the literary theory of storytelling & human psychology. Not only will it improve the stories you write but it will help you understand yourself & others better too. What more can you ask of a 200 page book!

For me, one of the highlights is the 25 page appendix where theory meets reality in a character focussed method to develop a story from the initial idea. I will definitely be trying the out while I outline my next novel.
Matt
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very accessible book – the main content is really interesting and puts a different spin on analysing story but not particularly revelatory. Comes into its own in the appendix where the content is pulled together into a useful theory. Would have liked a bit more on other characters than just protagonists.
Francis Djabri
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Far more useful and applicable than just learning how to tell a good story. This book gave me deep insight into the human condition. If you accept the premise that what makes a good story also makes for a good life, then this book can also help you think about how to craft your own narrative.
Sabrina
Heard so much about this from so many different people so I was really keen to read it. There was some really interesting brain science, but the detailed analysis of some of the books and films was not as exciting. I love that the audio narrator was actually the author.
Akvile
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Another great book by Will Storr. He is not only deep into subject of our tribal brains and self perception, but also a great storyteller himself. The book opened new horizons for me in terms of creative writing, making this not only a technical thing, such as wording, but so much more.
Colin Myles
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining as well as educational read. Lots of Aha moments. Not just for those who write but for everyone who would like to understand and communicate better.
EBookLover
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting and useful book. I really liked that it explained the science behind the observations and recommendations.
Hayley Dunning
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Succinctly helpful for writing and life.
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Will Storr is a long-form journalist, novelist and reportage photographer. His features have appeared in The Guardian Weekend, The Telegraph Magazine, The Times Magazine, The Observer Magazine, The Sunday Times Style and GQ, and he is a contributing editor at Esquire. He has reported from the refugee camps of Africa, the war-torn departments of rural Colombia and the remote Aboriginal communities ...more
“The world we experience as ‘out there’ is actually a reconstruction of reality that is built inside our heads. It’s an act of creation by the storytelling brain. This is how it works. You walk into a room. Your brain predicts what the scene should look and sound and feel like, then it generates a hallucination based on these predictions. It’s this hallucination that you experience as the world around you. It’s this hallucination you exist at the centre of, every minute of every day. You’ll never experience actual reality because you have no direct access to it.” 0 likes
“Dr Todd Feinberg writes of a patient, Lizzy, who suffered strokes in her occipital lobes. As can happen in such cases, her brain didn’t immediately process the fact she’d gone ‘suddenly and totally’ blind, so it continued projecting its hallucinated model of the world. Visiting her hospital bed, Feinberg enquired if she was having trouble with her vision in any way. ‘No,’ she said. When he asked her to take a look around and tell him what she saw, she moved her head accordingly. ‘It’s good to see friends and family, you know,’ she said. ‘It makes me feel like I’m in good hands.’ But there was nobody else there. ‘Tell me their names,’ said Feinberg. ‘I don’t know everybody. They’re my brother’s friends.’ ‘Look at me. What am I wearing?’ ‘A casual outfit. You know, a jacket and pants. Mostly navy blue and maroon.’ Feinberg was in his hospital whites. Lizzy continued their chat smiling and acting ‘as if she had not a care in the world’.” 0 likes
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