How do you handle a Question and Answer session?
Presenting technical information to a non-technical audience
When it comes to storytelling, Will Storr has literally written the book on it.
This is THE book that I would recommend that everyone reads before they begin writing, telling or even thinking about, storytelling.
Storr focuses his lens very much on the science of storytelling (I know, I know, the clue was in the title), which is a refreshing change from so many other books on the same topic, which so often fill themselves with fluffy anecdotes and guidance on ‘what’ to do, with little explanation of ‘why’.
The science, combined with the polymathic nature of this book are what makes it so engaging. To demonstrate, I have just flicked to five random pages and can cite cavemen, Jaws, David Eagleman, Shakespeare and Kishutatenketsu as relevant examples of how this book ties in so many areas of culture, psychology and more.
By focusing on the science and the ‘why’ Storr gives a deeper (and more interesting) insight into storytelling, which ultimately gives us, the reader, greater benefit. In understanding how and why stories work so well, we are better placed to apply these techniques and learnings to our own stories, increasing our effectiveness as storytellers.
The content is general, in that it applies to writing screenplays as much as writing a great speech or story to share on stage. But this is to our benefit, as once again the wide lens through which the author explores the topic gives a greater depth of understanding. My background in public speaking gave me the confidence and experience to quickly apply the knowledge in this book to my public speaking, and I trust that even a fairly novice speaker could do the same due to the clear explanations and demonstrations within the text.
The short, snappy chapters and writing style make this book a very easy read. Indeed, you will likely only be slowed due to needing to breathe as the examples and storytelling gold dust come thick and fast on each page (I had a notepad on hand throughout to jot down all of the best bits!). Come the final page, it is hard not to have become a storytelling enthusiast, and so the 24 pages of notes and sources are a treasure trove through which to explore the topic (and science) even more deeply.
What could be better? The final ‘Appendix’ with Storr’s introduction of his own theory of storytelling ‘The Sacred Flaw Approach’ feels tacked on (I know, I know, it is an appendix). It doesn’t add much to the book as a whole, and perhaps could have been a book in its own right, later down the line.
This is a small (but not sacred) flaw in what is a gem of a book on storytelling that has engaged and inspired my inner polymath. Thank you Will Storr for crafting it.