• David de Souza

'The Storytelling Book' Summary - My 24 Core Takeaways


My biggest takeaway from this book was the idea of projecting moral authority by evoking a statement from a respected 3rd party. Doing so takes the attack from you as the questioner to someone with expertise, trust or moral authority.


Want to dig deeper than the core principles? Check out my notes in Roam Research and see how the principles from this book connect with other books I've read.




Core Principles:


I have summarized 'The Storytelling Book', distilling it into 24 core principles:

  1. What is important can't be measured. What can be measured is measured and the flood of data and possible analysis steers us away from what really matters.

  2. In a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, students who were given a 5,000-word chapter and a 1,000-word summary were found to remember more with the 1,000 summary after 20 minutes and also after a year.

  3. A study was undertaken with horse race pundits. First they were told they could use any 5 pieces of information that they wanted. Then this was increased to 10, 20 and finally 40. The result was that there was no increase in accuracy but there was an increase in confidence.

  4. We are blind to randomness. We are hardwired to disregard evidence that we don't notice.

  5. We have an aversion to the unknown or unpredictable.

  6. 'To get a reaction and a response, we need to make what we say as surprising as possible.'

  7. The system 1 part of our brain notices patterns subconsciously, without the knowledge or approval of the deliberate, system 2 part of the brain.

  8. Pattern formation was developed through natural selection to help us make the decision on if we should flee, fight, feed, or fuck.

  9. The traditional view of decision-making was one that was linear. These linear theories have been discredited for ones that are more: 1. Non-linear 2. Unconscious 3. Context-dependent

  10. For communication to be effective it needs to massage the ego of the listener relative to the informational content.

  11. We are constantly trying to signal and receive indicators of ours and others fitness and status. Our message should focus on understanding what others want and not telling them what we have.

  12. Gossip builds status and prestige, allowing information to be a commodity, showing people what you know. "Most communication is not primarily about the exchange of information or truth-telling: it is more about conveying an impression". How can you include a detail in your story or brand that makes it stand out, iconic or gossip-worthy. For example, Ogilvy used a black eye batch on the model for one of his advertisements.

  13. When it comes to telling a story, ensure that your story is believable and everything associated with it has integrity.

  14. Find your audience's key concern and prioritize it. Start by acknowledging it and answering it initially to set them at ease.

  15. The first 10 pages of your story should be the best to ensure the reader gets hooked from the start.

  16. By piquing the interest of the audience early, you are leading them down a path that provides cognitive ease, a clear path for our brain to follow. This enables you to prime the audience by taking them down the path of your choosing.

  17. When we begin communications with a bang, getting the audiences' attention, we pique their curiosity.

  18. The Top-Down Approach: Start with the big idea or the insight instead of a long introduction that hides your story and annoys the audience. Start with: 1. The conclusion 2. An unexpected insight or recommendation. 3. An itch of ambiguity that makes your audience want to scratch to find a resolution. 4. Inviting: "Come and let me take you on a journey".

  19. Structure is the most important part of story writing. The brain needs a pattern and order to follow.

  20. There is no character without conflict. There needs to be a clash of opposites, a rivalry, a ying and yang. Conflict comes naturally to all living things and it is vital to storytelling. Our brain is constantly in conflict, much of which is short term vs long term gratification.

  21. Think about identifying the quest of your story by asking: 1. What is the inner quest? 2. What transformation will happen? 3. Who will be the hero? 4. What is the tone or personality?

  22. Avoid the Linear by: 1. Finding a way of avoiding "the prison of chronology" on your story journey. 2. Avoiding saying or writing a linear series of "and then...and then..."

  23. The Peak End Rule: When we recall a memory our recollection (whether good or bad) will be determined by 2 points: 1. How you felt at the peak (low or high) 2. How you felt at the end.

  24. The ending should include a resolution that results in an emotional crescendo.


Let me know how these summaries can be improved? Contact me via Email (david@thisdomain.co) or on Twitter.



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