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  • Writer's pictureDavid de Souza

Storyworthy - 80/20 Summary

Updated: Feb 23, 2022


Mental Models from the book:

'Story Worthy' can be summarised into 11 mental models:

1. Curiosity Instinct
  • Breadcrumbs are used to hint towards a future event. Enough is revealed to keep the listener wondering and guessing. Breadcrumbs are effective when something unexpected happens in the story. For example: 'As I climb into the car, I see my crumpled McDonald's uniform on the backseat, and I suddenly have an idea.

2. Emergence
  • Sentences, paragraphs, and science work against each other like the serrated blades of a knife. They progress through the use of opposites (it was this but now it's this). They create a new idea from the previous sentence (this plus this equals this). If you listen to someone talking about their vacation it is usually boring: "We went here and it was so good and then we went here and it was so good also". The negative is often better for storytelling, we become much more interested when we are told about something that went wrong on your vacation. Saying what someone is not, is better than saying what they are: I am ugly and poor vs I'm not at all good looking and I'm not rich. The reason is because of the hidden 'but' that it contains. It says I could have been rich, it implies what I could have been. Most people wrongly connect sentences, paragraphs and scenes together with the word 'and'. 'And' stories are like running on a treadmill, there is no real movement. Instead, use:

    1. But

    2. Therefore

    3. However

    4. Except

    5. As a result

    6. Instead

  • 'But' and 'therefore' signal change. The story goes in one direction and then another. The best storytellers don't move the story in a straight line.

3. Emotions
  • Fill a metaphorical backpack with your hopes and fears before moving forward in the story. This increases wonder in your listeners about what will happen next and helps them to experience similar emotions to how you were feeling at the time. For example: 'I make a plan. I'm going to beg for gas because it's 1991. Gas is eighty-five cents a gallon, so eight dollars is all I need to get me home. I'll offer my license, my wallet, everything as collateral in exchange for $8 worth of gas and the promise that I will return and repay the money and money. Whatever it takes. So I rehearse my pitch, take a deep breath, and walk in.'

3.1 - Emotions: Humor
  • Make your story funny by combing two words that don't normally go together. For example: My sadist grandmother.

  • Oddly specific words are funnier.

3.2 - Emotions: Surprise
  • Stories need surprise so the listener can experience an emotional response. Use contrast to enhance surprise. Highlight a contrasting version of the world before the moment of surprise. Build expectations so that you can upend them.

  • Don't set expectations by saying: "This funny thing happened". This reduces the chances of surprising the listener and surprise is one of the key ingredients of storytelling.

4. Evolution: Adaptation
  • A story needs to be more than just a sequence of interesting events. A story must have change. The story must start with one version of you and end with a new you.

5. First Conclusion Bias
  • Start with a laugh within the first 30 seconds. This signals that you are a good storyteller and the audience can relax. It signals that you control the floor.

6. Inversion
  • The opposite of the first 15 minutes of a movie is usually the ending.

  • Make your listener think they are going down one path but then show them they have been on a different path all the long. This strategy is effective when the story is heavy or emotional. Make the beginning light and fun, this will contrast to the sadness at the end.

7. Momentum
  • Start with forward movement in your stories. It makes the listener feel like they are going somewhere and the story is not stagnant. Start with walking, driving, or riding a train for example.

8. Scarcity
  • The key point about telling a big story is that it must be about something small. Something that the listener can relate to, which is often not the case in a typical 'big' story. A common mistake is for storytellers to look for the big themes instead of small moments, a 5 second moment. A 5 second moment is an experience that changes you in some way. A story is a snapshot of your life told with the greatest clarity possible. This 5 second moment is the most important part of the story. It should come close to the end, often the last thing you say. Moments of change within a story could include:

    1. You fall in love

    2. You fall out of love

    3. You discover something about yourself

    4. You discover something about someone else

    5. Your opinion on something changes dramatically

    6. You forgive

    7. You accept

    8. You fall into despair

    9. You resign yourself

    10. You regret

    11. You make a decision that changes your life

    12. You choose a new path

    13. You accomplish something

    14. You fail

  • Once you have found your '5 second moment' ask yourself, what is the opposite of that moment and this will be the start of your story.

9. The Ikea Effect
  • Movies like Ocean 11 explain the plan before the robbery. They do this so that you can feel as if you are on team Oceans 11, and the resulting fear and suspense when things don't go to plan. Your audience wants you to succeed but they want struggle and problems within the story first. They want you to overcome something.

10. Velocity
  • Slow time down to build the anticipation. Describe things that don't require a description. Slow your actual pace of delivery. Reduce the volume of your voices when you reach the crucial part that the audience has been waiting to hear.

11. Vividness Bias
  • Provide a physical location for every moment of the story. If the listener can imagine the location, you've created a cinematic experience.


Mental Model Mind Maps:

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