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The Science of Storytelling

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,960 ratings  ·  269 reviews
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 media. Storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human.

There have been many attemp

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 4th 2019 by William Collins
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  1,960 ratings  ·  269 reviews

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Taylor Reid
This book was recommended to me by Katherine Center and if any of you have read one of her books or gone to one of her book events, you know that her passion is intoxicating. (If not, I highly recommend anything Katherine Center. I find her to be one of the most likable people on the planet.) And boy, was she right about this book. It’s about storytelling—but more than anything it’s about character, it’s about people. And because of it, it’s really about who we are. Why we all do the things we d ...more
Listening, Not Telling, Is the Issue

The idea of correlating literary criticism with physiological and psychological research is intriguing on the face of it. But I would be much happier about this book if it were directed toward the listeners rather than the tellers of stories. As it stands, it’s a sort of how-to manual for improving the script for the Kardashians and other creators of literary roadside bombs.

The world isn’t experiencing a dearth of folk who can tell stories well. There are many
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gather round ye GoodReads fiction addicts, writers and reviewers: here is the book we've all been waiting for (well I have, at any rate).

Don't be put off by the rather pedestrian title - this is a thoroughly
accessible and fascinating approach to the art of storytelling, and why we need stories, not just for entertainment, but to help us make sense of the world and to understand ourselves and those around us.

I was gripped from the very start - in fact, before the very start - by Storr's compelli
It successfully answers the why behind the writing rules we generally understand and consider commonplace. It was interesting to read from the scientific perspective. But I feel like I knew why already without needing so much detail in some accounts, so it was a mediocre book on craft for me.

My main problem with nonfiction textbook style books is when they give me personal opinion I didn’t ask for. I didn’t need to hear that Native American origin stories and legends are ‘rubbish’ within the au
Michael Perkins
The insightful passage below made me think of white privilege. In colonial America, white landowners pursued a divide and conquer strategy with the white and black laborers who worked for them for small wages. The owners feared that the laborers, who got along well with each other, would join forces and rebel. The owners convinced white laborers that they were inherently superior to black ones and to prove it they paid white laborers a bit more than the black ones. This practice has continued do ...more
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
Nelson Zagalo
An introduction to the topic, serving mainly the ones interested in knowing the secrets behind human passion for stories. However, this is no academic book, don't expect depth or novel scientific concepts. Storr writes with fluidity, maintaining the reader engaged, but if you're looking for academic work to support your research, look elsewhere.

A larger discussion, with references, is presented in my blog, but in Portuguese:
Salman Israr
Great, really great.

I would also highly recommend actually reading on human psychology too for deeper, meaningful understanding of human psychology e.g. work of Erik Erikson , Robert Kegan (developmental psychology), Jean Pigeat (child psychology, and Moral Animal by Robert Wright as well (evolutionary psychology).

I would highly recommend this to anyone who's learning storytelling on their own.

I would also recommend:

- Story by Robert McKee.
- Into the Woods by John Yorke.
- Creating Character Arc
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
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. ...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
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential resource for writers of fiction.

Storr writes in an engaging and informative way, effectively interpreting the science for the layperson. He draws on research by story theorists, mythologists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, biologists and social genomicists to explain how stories work. Each point is amply demonstrated with examples from literature, film, TV and computer games.

Just some of the topics covered by The Science of Storytelling include:
How to c
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Came to me at an important moment of change in my life, and helped me grow as a person and be more compassionate towards the people in my life. Cannot recommend enough.
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
Thomas Edmund
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to confess that I picked this book up with fairly specific expectations - namely a scientific dive into why stories are so important to human beings.

Instead Storr delivers much more. Drawing from a much wider range of psychology than I expected, including Personality, neurology and perception and how this impacts different elements of storytelling. So rather than a sort of interest piece of why people like stories anyone who reads this gets a fairly thorough bundle of both a 'how-to' book
Fatima Sheriff
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Will write a full review on my science blog but this is a brilliant blend of neuroscience / psychological evidence and critical literary theory. It helps to have read Remains of The Day and watched Citizen Kane but the book carries you through the major plot points that are relevant.
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
there was less actual science than i wanted and more lit crit/copious numbers of examples i didn't need, so i ended up more annoyed by it than anything (also the whole "anyone should be able to write anything" at the end like......okay, not that there have been whole discussions about this) ...more
Owen Townend
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A combination of two nonfiction subjects I can't get enough of: writing and human behaviour. In The Science of Storytelling, Storr approaches the art of fiction cognitively, revealing how the brain seeks affirmation and responds to it's bias being suddenly disproven. First and foremost, he emphasises that we each have our own perceived reality which is both sacred and flawed.

This book goes into detail about how metaphor lives and dies in how a reader interprets an information gap. It explains h
Ville Verkkapuro
May 12, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely good book on creating a story, from a point of view that goes deep into our psyche and the history of stories overall as humans and especially as modern, western humans.
Audiobook was superb, though I would love to have this as a physical one, too. (three four....)
Recommended to anyone who is interested in WHY stories work and WHY they are as they are. This is a very good companion to Wired for Story (by Lisa Cron), Story (by Robert McKee) and Save the Cat! (by Blake Snyder).
Igor Putina
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stellar, one of the best books ever.
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: phd-study
This guy's worldview made me ask several times, "You okay, fella? You need some help?" BUT everything about story is amazing. Absolutely fabulous, fascinating read. ...more
Colin Bardsley
May 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow - this was unexpectedly great. 'Unexpectedly' because I only picked it up when it was the Audible £1.99/£2.99 daily deal. And even then only because the daily deal wasn't historical fiction, warhammer, mainstream crime, or romance for the first time in a while.

But when I reached the end, I surprised myself by not immediately clicking 'remove from device' like I usually do as soon as I hear the comforting "Audible hopes you've enjoyed this programme". That's because I'll most likely return to
May 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kindle book ends ~77%, and I was glad of it.

Honestly one of the better writing books I've read, attempting to explain why certain things work or are necessary, not just prescribing a process or set of rules. But you wouldn't accuse it being overly concise. Of course that's true of more non-fiction than not isn't it. So many pamphlets padded out so they can charge book prices for it.
David Wineberg
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Science of Storytelling is a psychology book. It looks at the age-old art of storytelling through what we know today about what catches the attention, what holds it, what intrigues the mind, repulses it or gets it calculating. All this in aid of writing novels and screenplays, which Will Storr teaches.

When I was a (marketing) manager, I had the reputation of always telling stories. Any time I wanted some sort of action taken, I would tell a story where similar circumstances led to the needed
Daniel B-G
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing, kindle
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.
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
Hannah Hethmon
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant. Equally informative for those wanting to learn more about how we build our own identity and understand the world around us as it is for those who want to create stories that appeal to people on an intuitive level. If you love good stories and want to understand why they are so engrossing or want to make great stories, this is a must-read. It’s also beautifully written, and I found myself savouring some of the more poignant lines.
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes of this book after finishing the introduction. However, my interest dwindled off after there as I found myself just skim-reading the pages instead of taking in the information. When the person I borrowed this book from requested I gave them it back, I decided just to mark this as a DNF as I had no interest in continuing this.
Natalie Wakes
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So fascinating! Would even recommend to non-writers. Gives an insight into why we are so obsessed with stories.
Marian Leica
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well structured and detailed work, with good references, it creates a steady basis for understanding our stories and others'. ...more
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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

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“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.” 3 likes
“Locked inside the black vault of our skulls, stuck forever in the solitude of our own hallucinated universe, story is a portal, a hallucination within the hallucination, the closest we'll ever really come to escape.” 3 likes
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