Table of Contents

storytelling helps you realize that the biggest, scariest, most painful or regretful things in your head get small and surmountable when you share them with two, or three, or twenty, or three thousand people. (Location 169)

Tags: storytelling

Note: .storytelling things feel small when you share with others

Part I Finding Your Story

CHAPTER ONE My Promise to You

Your story must reflect change over time. A story cannot simply be a series of remarkable events. You must start out as one version of yourself and end as something new. The change can be infinitesimal. It need not reflect an improvement in yourself or your character, but change must happen. Even the worst movies in the world reflect some change in a character over time. (Location 580)

Tags: storytelling

Note: .storytelling your story mkust have change

Matt’s Three Rules of Vacation Stories         1.   No one wants to hear about your vacation.         2.   If someone asks to hear about your vacation, they are being polite. See rule #1.         3.   If you had a moment that was actually storyworthy while you were on vacation, that is a story that should be told. But it should not include the quality of the local cuisine or anything related to the beauty or charm of the destination. (Location 603)

Tags: storytelling

Note: .storytelling dont talk about vacation stories

This doesn’t mean that you can’t tell someone else’s story. It simply means you must make the story about yourself. You must tell your side of the story. (Location 614)

Tags: storytelling

Note: .storytelling tell your side of the story rather than through the eyes of someone else

Don’t tell other people’s stories. Tell your own. But feel free to tell your side of other people’s stories, as long as you are the protagonist in these tales. (Location 660)

Tags: storytelling

Note: .storytelling

I sit down every evening and ask myself: What is my story from today? What is the thing about today that has made it different from any previous day? Then I write my answer down. (Location 1008)

Tags: hc44, storytelling

Note: .storytelling what has made today different to other days?

There’s an added bonus to Homework for Life. It’s unrelated to storytelling, but it’s worth mentioning. It might just be the most important reason to do the exercise. As you begin to take stock of your days, find those moments — see them and record them — time will begin to slow down for you. The pace of your life will relax. (Location 1047)

Tags: journaling

Note: .journaling a regular journaling habit helps you notice more and slows down time

At that very moment, Clara pushes her face into the crook of my neck and whispers, “It’s just so nice to be held this close.” Then it occurs to me: I’m the only person in the world who picks up my daughter like this anymore. She’s become too big for my wife or her grandparents to lift. I’m the last person who will ever hold her like this. I’m the last person who will hold her like a little girl. (Location 1091)

Note: Be aware of the unique influence you have on those close to you

Rule #1: You must not get attached to any one idea. The goal of Crash & Burn is to allow unexpected ideas to intersect and overrun current ones, just as that rain-drenched corner of Main Street with my dog produced an important revelation about my father and a memory of sex on a golf course. Two intersecting ideas crashed into and overran the meaningful moment that I was experiencing with Kaleigh. (Location 1198)

Rule #2: You must not judge any thought or idea that appears in your mind. Everything must land on the page, regardless of how ridiculous, nonsensical, absurd, or humiliating it may be. Similarly, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization are meaningless. Penmanship is irrelevant. (Location 1205)

Rule #3: You cannot allow the pen to stop moving. I say pen because, although I do almost all my writing on a keyboard, I have found that engaging in Crash & Burn with a pen tends to trigger greater creativity (and there is some science to support this claim). But if you must use a keyboard, go for it. (Location 1221)

When I have no other thought in my mind, I begin listing colors on the page until one of them triggers a thought or memory. For example: Red, green, blue, black, brown . . . I tell kids that brown is my favorite color, and it makes them all crazy, which makes no sense, but in truth, I have no favorite color, which makes them even crazier (Location 1225)

When I’m teaching, I speak my Crash & Burn aloud as I write so my students can hear how my mind is working. Specifically, I want them to hear:          •     how new ideas come crashing in.         •     how I embrace these new ideas without hesitation or judgment.          •     how I am willing to leave a good idea behind in favor of a new one, regardless of how little promise the new idea seems to hold.          •     how I manage to keep my hand moving at all times. (Location 1237)

Tags: crashandburn, storytelling

Note: .storytelling .crashandburn let ideas overlap, dont kidge and dont stop writing. List colpurs if needs to to continue writing

Make it your mission to find, see, remember, and identify stories, and you will begin to see your life in a new and more compelling light. (Location 1495)

It’s called First Last Best Worst. All you need to play is pen and paper. (Location 1499)

I’ve given you three tools to find stories.         •     Homework for Life         •     Crash & Burn         •     First Last Best Worst (Location 1656)

Part II Crafting Your Story

Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. — Ancient proverb (Location 1669)

Tags: story

Note: .story

I can’t get in touch with him, because in 1991, when you want to call someone, you need to make a phone ring on a wall, and you need to make that phone ring at the moment the person you want to speak to is near that phone, and you need the number for the phone to make it ring, and all of that is impossible for me to get. (Location 1704)

Tags: hc44, mobilephone

Note: .mobilephone .hc44

All great stories — regardless of length or depth or tone — tell the story of a five-second moment in a person’s life. (Location 1757)

These five-second moments are the moments in your life when something fundamentally changes forever. You fall in love. You fall out of love. You discover something new about yourself or another person. Your opinion on a subject dramatically changes. You find forgiveness. You reach acceptance. You sink into despair. You grudgingly resign. You’re drowned in regret. You make a life-altering decision. Choose a new path. Accomplish something great. Fail spectacularly. (Location 1762)

If you experienced a five-second moment in Tanzania, you might have something. Think of it this way: If we remove Tanzania from the story, do you still have a story worth telling? (Location 1800)

Your five-second moment is the most important thing that you will say. It is the purpose and pinnacle of your story. It’s the reason you opened your mouth in the first place. Therefore it must come as close to the end of your story as possible. Sometimes it will be the very last thing you say. (Location 2011)

the beginning of the story should be the opposite of the end. Find the opposite of your transformation, revelation, or realization, and this is where your story should start. This is what creates an arc in your story. This is how a story shows change over time.         I was once this, but now I am this.         I once thought this, but now I think this. (Location 2036)

Through this revision process, I managed to move the beginning of my story about twelve hundred miles in distance and five hours in time. I also eliminated two airport terminals and an airplane in the process. In the end, the story takes place in one place: the building adjacent to the Boca Raton airport where cars are rented to travelers. I started as close to the end as possible. (Location 2221)

Here are a couple more practical tips for choosing an opening: 1. Try to start your story with forward movement whenever possible. Establish yourself as a person who is physically moving through space. Opening with forward movement creates instant momentum in a story. (Location 2285)

Tags: storytelling

Note: .storytelling start with forward motion

2. Don’t start by setting expectations. Listen to people in the world tell you stories. Often they start with a sentence like, “This is hilarious,” or “You need to hear this,” or “You’re not going to believe this.” This is always a mistake, for three reasons. (Location 2289)

Tags: stoeytelling

Note: .stoeytelling dont set expectations

Pay attention to the opening scenes of movies. So many of them use this strategy as well. We open on the protagonist or someone similarly important to the story. That person will be moving. Walking. Running. Driving. Flying. Climbing. Fleeing. Falling. Swimming. Crawling. Diving. Filmmakers want to immerse you into their world as quickly as possible. (Location 2310)

If you are telling a story about a five-second moment of your life — a moment of transformation, realization, or revelation — you’re doing well. If you’ve also found the right place to begin your story — a place that represents the opposite of your five-second moment, and one as close to the ending as possible — you’ve established a clear frame and arc in your story. You’ve identified the direction your story is headed in, and you and your audience probably have a good sense of where that may be. You are already going to be well received by audiences big and small. If you’re careful about choosing that opening scene — not simply choosing the first thing that comes to mind but instead asking yourself what the opening scene needs — and you open your story with story and not any form of unnecessary or qualifying introduction, you are going to grab your audience’s attention right off the bat. (Location 2333)

STORY BREAK Thirteen Rules for an Effective (and Perhaps Even Inspiring) Commencement Address

Offer one granular bit of wisdom, something that is both applicable and memorable. (Location 2358)

Tags: advice

Note: .advice applicable and memorable

The great commencement speakers manage to lodge a small, original, useful, and memorable idea in the minds of the graduates. (Location 2360)

Tags: advice

Note: .advice orginal and useful advice

the life expectancy of that generation was just 54. Your life expectancy is 76. That means that you can take a deep breath, chill out — catch up on House of Cards and Narcos — and spend the next twenty-two years figuring out what you want to do — and you could still end up matching the achievements of the Greatest Generation. (Location 2393)

Tags: lifeexpectancy

Note: .lifeexpectancy

The audience doesn’t know why they are listening to the story or what is to come, so it’s easy to stop listening. If you don’t present a reason to listen very early on, you risk losing their attention altogether. The Elephant tells the audience what to expect. It gives them a reason to listen, a reason to wonder. It infuses the story with instantaneous stakes. The Elephant should appear as early in the story as possible. Ideally, it should appear within the first minute, and if you can say it within the first thirty seconds, even better. (Location 2505)

Tags: hook

Note: you need an earlt elephant to draw the audience in

Eventually the Elephant in my story changes color. The story isn’t really about escaping New Hampshire at all. It’s really a story about understanding the nature of loneliness. I change the color of the Elephant halfway through this story. I present the audience with one Elephant, but then I paint it another color. I trick them. This is an excellent storytelling strategy: make your audience think they are on one path, and then when they least expect it, show them that they have been on a different path all along. (Location 2542)

The laugh laugh laugh cry formula,” she calls it. The audience thinks they are in the midst of a hilarious caper, and then they suddenly realize that this story is not what they expected. (Location 2551)

Backpacks A Backpack is a strategy that increases the stakes of the story by increasing the audience’s anticipation about a coming event. It’s when a storyteller loads up the audience with all the storyteller’s hopes and fears in that moment before moving the story forward. It’s an attempt to do two things:         1.    Make the audience wonder what will happen next.         2.    Make your audience experience the same emotion, or something like the same emotion, that the storyteller experienced in the moment about to be described. (Location 2598)

Tags: storytelling, backpack

Note: .backpack .storytelling

This is why heist movies like the Ocean’s Eleven franchise explain almost every part of the robbers’ plan before they ever make a move. If you understand their plan to rob the casino, you can experience the same level of frustration, worry, fear, and suspense that the characters feel when their plans go awry. The filmmakers put the audience on Danny Ocean’s team. They know the plan, so they feel as if they are a part of the heist themselves. (Location 2620)

Tags: backpack

Note: .backpack outline the plan so the audidence feels part of it

Backpacks are most effective when a plan does not work. If I had described my plan for begging for gas, and then the plan worked perfectly, there would have been no payoff for the Backpack. The scene would fall flat. If I go through all the trouble of explaining my plan beforehand, and then I say, “The kid agrees to lend me the gas,” the audience is oddly unsatisfied. They are left wondering why I went through all of that explanation only to find out that things turned out fine. (Location 2627)

Tags: backpacks

Note: .backpacks work best when the pln does not work

Breadcrumbs Storytellers use Breadcrumbs when we hint at a future event but only reveal enough to keep the audience guessing. In “Charity Thief,” I drop a Breadcrumb when I say: But as I climb back into the car, I see my crumpled McDonald’s uniform on the backseat, and I suddenly have an idea. (Location 2637)

Tags: storytelling, breadcrumbs

Note: .breadcrumbs tell a little detail to hint at next steps

It’s time to slow things down. Grind them to a halt when possible. When you know the audience is hanging on your every word, let them hang. Drag out the wait as long as possible. (Location 2661)

Tags: hourglass

Note: .hourglass whhen the audience is hanging on your words then slow things down

Crystal Balls The Crystal Ball is the easiest of the strategies to deploy, because you already use Crystal Balls in everyday life. A Crystal Ball is a false prediction made by a storyteller to cause the audience to wonder if the prediction will prove to be true. (Location 2708)

Tags: crystalball

Note: .crystalball false prediction made by the storyteller so the uadience will wonder if it will come througg

In “Charity Thief,” I say: [The man] points his finger at me and says, “You stay right there.” Then he walks back into his house, and I know what he’s doing. He’s calling the police, and they will come and arrest me for stealing money from McDonald’s. (Location 2711)

Tags: crystalball

Note: .crystalball False prediction example

In storytelling, deploy Crystal Balls strategically: Only when your prediction seems possible. Only when your guess is reasonable. And only when your prediction presents an intriguing or exciting possibility. (Location 2727)

Tags: crystalballs

Note: .crystalballs crystal balls should be viable outcomes

Remember, the best way to ensure that your story has stakes is to choose a story that has stakes. Elephants, Backpacks, Breadcrumbs, Hourglasses, and Crystal Balls (Location 2730)

Elephant They all begin with a clear sense of the want or need or peril or problem or mystery. Sometimes that Elephant changes color, sometimes not. (Location 2733)

Tags: elephant

Note: .elephant create a clear sense of the problem early

the goal of a storyteller is not to tell a funny story. The goal is to tell a story that moves an audience emotionally. (Location 2752)

Important Caveat #1 As storytellers, we only lie for the benefit of our audience. (Location 2800)

Eliminate people from stories when they serve no purpose. Pretend they aren’t there. Ghost them. (Location 2880)

Tags: storytelling

Note: omit irrelevant people

Lie #2: Compression Compression is used when storytellers want to push time and space together in order to make the story easier to comprehend, visualize, and tell. (Location 2953)

Do I try to explain to her that books are lakes and stories are rivers? Do I tell her that I want my stories to be easily visualized and understood? Do I lecture her on how Steven Soderbergh forces Danny Ocean’s crew to plan their casino heist in just a few days because that’s what an audience wants? (Location 3054)

Note: Simplify stories and reduce the timeframe

Love is a beautiful thing when it isn’t killing you. There are two kinds of toddlers in this world: those who raise your hopes for humanity and those who belong in a cage.           I used to think that I understood my mother better than anyone in the world, but now I know that mothers are like oceans: deep, dark, and full of secrets. These are not the beginnings to stories. These are sentences that supposedly state some universal truth that the story will then illustrate. But this is not how stories work. Stories are not supposed to start with thesis statements or overwrought aphorisms. (Location 3122)

Note: Stories shouldnt start with thesis statements which the story proves or disproves

A great storyteller creates a movie in the mind of the audience. Listeners should be able to see the story in their mind’s eye at all times. (Location 3130)

Always provide a physical location for every moment of your story. That’s it. If the audience knows where you are at all times within your story, the movie is running in their minds. The film is cycling from reel to reel. (Location 3133)

Tags: storytelling

Note: .storytelling always provide a physical location

The ideal connective tissue in any story are the words but and therefore, along with all their glorious synonyms. (Location 3304)

Tags: storytelling

Note: Use but and therefore rather than and.

“And” stories have no movement or momentum. They are equivalent to running on a treadmill. Sentences and scenes appear, one after another, but the movement is straightforward and unsurprising. The momentum is unchanged. But and therefore are words that signal change. The story was heading in one direction, but now it’s heading in another. We started out zigging, but now we are zagging. We did this, and therefore this new thing happened. (Location 3306)

Do you see the way the sentences, paragraphs, and scene work against each other? They either __oppose the previous sentence (it was this, but now it’s this) or they compile the previous sentences into a new ide__a (this plus this equal this). ... It’s the difference between these two statements:          - I loved Heather since sixth grade, but as much as I loved her, she was never mine.          - I loved Heather since sixth grade. She was never my girlfriend. (Location 3368)

Note: use sentences to oppose previous sentences

The first example has a single sentence that accomplishes much more than the two sentences in the second example. That single sentence:          1.    Climbs to the summit of a hill (I loved Heather since sixth grade . . .). 2.    Rests at the top for a moment (. . . but as much as I loved her . . .). 3.    Falls down the backside of that hill (. . . she was never mine). It zigs and then zags. It says this and then that. The two clauses work against each other, creating a sense of action and movement. (Location 3377)

Tags: zig zag

Note: Make sentences zig zag. Two clauses work against each other. Use the word "but".

Parker and Stone explained that as they storyboard each scene in their show, they have found that they must be able to connect the scenes (they refer to them as beats) with a but or a therefore for the next scene to work. If the words and then can be placed between any two scenes, Parker says, “You’re fucked.” Matt Stone says it’s this “causation between each scene that makes a story.” This happens, therefore that happens, but then this happens, therefore that happens. (Location 3401)

Stories are the crafted representation of events that are related in such a way to demonstrate change over time in the life of the teller. Applying the but-and-therefore principle to your stories, both formal and anecdotal, will make you the kind of person people want to listen to. (Location 3417)

Oddly, the negative is almost always better than the positive when it comes to storytelling. Saying what something or someone is not is almost always better than saying what something or someone is. For example:         I am dumb, ugly, and unpopular.         I’m not smart, I’m not at all good-looking, and no one likes me. (Location 3420)

The second sentence really says this: I could be smart, but I’m dumb. I could be good-looking, but I’m ugly. I could be popular, but no one likes me. By saying what I am not, I am also saying what I could have been, and that is a hidden but. (Location 3428)

Note: the hidden "but". Use "not" clever/handsome etc as "not" is like a hidden but

This probably sounds a little wonky and overspecific, but it makes a real difference when speaking to people. “I was lost” is just not as good as “I could not find my way home.” “Heather is my ex-girlfriend” is not as good as “Heather is no longer my girlfriend.” “I was penniless” is not as good as “I didn’t have a penny to my name.” (Location 3431)

The goal of storytelling is to connect with your audience, whether it’s one person at the dinner table or two thousand people in a theater. Storytelling is not about a roller-coaster ride of excitement. It’s about bridging the gap between you and another person by creating a space of authenticity, vulnerability, and universal truth. (Location 3556)

Tags: storytelling

Note: .storytelling its not about excitement, its about engaging with your audience

Little moments hidden inside big moments. That’s what we need to find to tell a big story well. (Location 3616)

The longer you speak, the more perfect and precise you must be. The longer you stand in front of an audience — whether it be a theater or a boardroom — the more entertaining and engaging your words must be. So speak less. Make time your ally. (Location 3687)

Common mistakes that storytellers make that ruin surprise include: Presenting a thesis statement prior to the surprise. This often takes the form of an opening sentence that gives away all that is surprising about the story. “This is a story about a time in my life when my friends became my family.” “This is a story about a car accident so serious that it took my life, if only for a moment.” “This is the story of a waiting room full of surprise guests.” (Location 3786)

Tags: storytelling

Note: .storytelling dont ruin the surprise by giving a thesis statement

To review, the strategies for preserving and enhancing surprise in a story:          1.    Avoid thesis statements in storytelling.          2.    Heighten the contrast between the surprise and the moment just before the surprise.          3.    Use stakes to increase surprise.          4.    Avoid giving away the surprise in your story by hiding important information that will pay off later (planting bombs). This is done by:               •   Obscuring them in a list of other details or examples.               •   Placing them as far away from the surprise as possible.               •   When possible, building a laugh around them to further camouflage their importance. (Location 3925)

I try to make the audience laugh here, because it’s always good to get your audience to laugh in the first thirty seconds of a story. A laugh at the beginning does these three things:         1.    It signals to the audience: “I’m a good storyteller. I know what I’m doing. You can relax.” (Location 3997)

Tags: make

Note: .make the audience laugh in the first 30 seconds

I want my audience to laugh here because we are seconds away from the collision. The contrast between their laughter and the approaching horror heightens the shocking and visceral nature of what is about to happen. I often say that I like to make people laugh before making them cry, because it hurts more that way. That is my goal here: Make them laugh so the collision and the resulting violence hurt more. Contrast is king in storytelling, and laughter can provide a fantastic contrast to something authentically awful. (Location 4028)

Note: Contrst is king.mke them laugh right becore making them cry

Oddly specific words are also funny. It’s funnier for me to say, “I’m pouring water over Raisin Bran because I am too stupid and lazy to buy milk” than it is to say, “I’m pouring water over a bowl of cereal.” Why? Specificity is funny. (Location 4124)

Babies and Blenders Babies and Blenders is the idea that when two things that rarely or never go together are pushed together, humor often results. (Location 4127)

Tags: humour, storytelling

Note: When you combine 2 unlikely things it is often humerous

My favorite example of Babies and Blenders is an old Sesame Street game called “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.” Storytellers play this game in their stories all the time by creating a list of three descriptors, with the third being nothing like the other two. My favorite storyteller in the world — Steve Zimmer — does this in a story entitled “Neighborhood Watch.” After Steve’s family is not invited to the neighborhood Hawaiian luau, they decide to host the Zimmer family barbecue, which features “Zimmers, pineapple-flavored ham, and despair.” (Location 4146)

Tags: humour

Note: .humour list 3 things, and the last is nothing like the first

Tell your stories. On stages or in living rooms or at dinner tables. Share them with friends and family and people willing to listen. You never know what might happen. (Location 4350)

Part III Telling Your Story

As you begin to tell stories in the present tense, the shift from present to past to present will become instinctual as you learn to sense when you want your audience in the present moment as opposed to the past. I hit a moment of heightened emotion or increased gravity, so I instinctually shift to the present tense if I’m not already there, because this is when I want my audience “in the now.” Similarly, when I launch into backstory, I almost always instinctually shift into the past tense. It just makes sense. (Location 4457)

Note: Shift the audience to present tense for key moments

Seeing your story as you tell it is a great thing. It will help you connect to it more effectively. Your emotional state will more closely match your actual emotions from the time and place that you are describing. When you can see your story, it is more likely that your audience will see your story too. (Location 4480)

Note: Using present tense enables you to ee your stort better and feel the emotions

“Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.” Or Leonardo da Vinci: “He who truly knows has no occasion to shout.” Or Mark Twain: “Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.” (Location 4553)

Tags: bragging, boasting

Note: .boasting .bragging

Rather than attempting to be grandiose about yourself or your success, you must undermine both you and it. This is because of two realities: First, human beings love underdog stories. The love for the underdog is universal. Underdogs are supposed to lose, so when they manage to pull out an unexpected or unbelievable victory, our sense of joy is more intense than if that same underdog suffers a crushing defeat. A crushing defeat is expected. An unbelievable win is a surprise. (Location 4578)

Note: Dont brag about success.

Asking a rhetorical question causes the audience to devise an answer in their mind. You have just turned your story into a Q&A session. (Location 4688)

Note: Dont ask rhetorical questions

Don’t address the audience or acknowledge their existence whatsoever. Avoid phrases like “You guys!” for the same reason you shouldn’t ask rhetorical questions. When a storyteller says something like “You guys, you’re not going to believe this!” the bubble is instantly broken. Time travel has abruptly ended. The audience is keenly aware that someone is standing in front of them, speaking directly to them and the people sitting around them. (Location 4690)

Note: Dont address the audience

Don’t mention the word story in your story. Phrases like, “But that’s a story for another day,” or “Long story short” serve to remind our audience that we are telling a story. If your audience knows that you’re telling a story, then they’re not time traveling. (Location 4726)

Conversations about the weather are the antithesis of this ideal of an entertaining, connected, meaningful world. They are the death of good conversation. They are the enemy of the interesting. My humble suggestion: Avoid these conversations at all costs. Change the subject. Do not engage. Walk away if necessary. You will be the happier, and the more interesting, for it. (Location 4925)

Tags: weather

Note: .weather dont talk about the weather

Instead of memorizing your story word-for-word, memorize three parts to a story:         1.    The first few sentences. Always start strong.         2.    The last few sentences. Always end strong.         3.    The scenes of your story. (Location 5010)

If you’re following my advice and placing every moment of your story in a physical location (chapter 11), then your story will be composed of scenes: places where the action, dialogue, and internal monologues are taking place. If you remember these places, you will remember what happens there, (Location 5016)

My suggestion is this: Find a person on your left, a person on your right, and a person dead center who likes you. These will be the people who are smiling. Nodding. Laughing. Use these three people as your guideposts. Make eye contact with them, and the people in each of those areas will feel you are attending to them as well. (Location 5046)

Tags: contact

Note: .contact

This is who I am.         This is what I believe.         This is what I want.         This is what I dream.         How about you? (Location 5143)

Tags: date

Note: .date

When a student-teacher presents me with a lesson that he or she would like to teach to my class, my first question is always this: “What’s the hook? What is the reason for my students to listen and pay attention to you?” (Location 5154)

Tags: teaching, hook

Note: .hook .teaching you need a hook to draw people in