Book Review: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

I recently got — well, I’m not actually sure I can call it an advance reader copy since the book had already been published, but I recently got a review copy of Will Storr’s new book The Science of Storytelling.

It’s a really lovely book, first because of its insights into storytelling and second because of its insights into the human condition.

Structurally, it reminded me a lot of Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story, which is one of my very favorite books on storytelling — though, as the title implies, Wendig uses a lot more swears. (I am fine with swears.)

Storr’s book, as his title implies, links story to science:

My hope is that what follows will be of interest to anyone curious about the science of the human condition, even if they have little practical interest in storytelling. But it’s also for the storytellers. The challenge any of us faces is that of grabbing and keeping the attention of other people’s brains. I’m convinced we can all become better at what we do by finding out a bit about how they work.

What does that mean? Well, for starters, human minds are wired for three things: patterns, change, and connection. A good story incorporates all three elements in a way that keeps us captivated until the very end. But Storr breaks storytelling down even further, bringing in everything from peripeteia to theory of mind to, by the end of the book, a step-by-step guide to creating a scientifically sound story — though Storr also notes that some of the best stories transcend anything that can be summed up in a step-by-step guide.

That said, if you want to know how to construct a story in a way that might command a reader’s attention, The Science of Storytelling will provide you with a framework.

And if you just want to know why human brains are attracted to stories, and why we transcribe our own lives into stories even if we aren’t writers ourselves, The Science of Storytelling will give you all the answers you need.

Consider it highly recommended. ❤️

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