Storyworthy Notes

Storyworthy Notes

55 Ideas that stuck with me on how to craft a better story.

Keegan Leary
Keegan Leary

Below is a stream of notes I took while reading Storyworthy.  I think this list of advice on how to craft a story is a better way to recap this book than my normal style, and I intend to constantly refer back to it as I continue to write.

  1. Story must reflect change over time. You start out as someone and end someone else.
  2. Has to happen to you (can be somebody else’s story, but you need to be the protagonist)
  3. Dinner test. Tell a story like you would at the dinner table
  4. Small moments that connect = stories
  5. Daily story journal
  6. Crash and burn. Stream of consciousness writing. No rules, just write. Evaluate later. Pen never stops moving. List things: colors, numbers, countries, girlfriends etc. ten or 15 minute timer.
  7. First, last, best, worst - kiss, car, pet, trouble, injury, gift, travel
  8. Every story is just a 5 second moment in a persons life.
  9. The 5 second transformation comes at the end.
  10. The opposite of the first 15 minutes of a movie is the end of the movie.
  11. Start as close to the end as possible
  12. Start with forward movement
  13. Don’t set expectations
  14. Stakes are the reason the audience listens to the next line
  15. The elephant - change its color
  16. Backpack - laid audience up with your plan. Plan shouldn’t execute perfectly
  17. Breadcrumbs
  18. Hourglass - slow time to build anticipation, then flip the hourglass!
  19. Crystal balls - ??
  20. Lie only if it benefits audience, not you
  21. Lie of omission
  22. Nobody wants redemption.  They want a clown.
  23. Lies of compression
  24. Lies of assumption
  25. Lies of progression changing the sequence of events
  26. The lie of conflation pushing everything into a shorter timeline
  27. Transform A moment into THE moment
  28. You should present a fully realized cinematic experience in the mind of your audience
  29. Always provide a location for every different location of the story. Physical location is the key
  30. Action. Specificity. Setting.
  31. The word AND results in terrible stories, but & therefore are better conjunctions (and all of their synonyms)
  32. This is not a story: First we went here and it was amazing and then we went there and it was amazing and then we went there and it was amazing. I.E. I don’t want to hear about your vacation.
  33. The power of the negative it is more effective to see what you are not then what you are.
  34. Authenticity, vulnerability, universal truth
  35. Brevity is the soul of wit
  36. Surprise is the only way to elicit an emotional reaction from your audience
  37. An opening thesis statement ruins all surprise
  38. Utilize the stakes to enhance the surprise
  39. Plant a bomb. Hide critical details to enhance the surprise
  40. Obscure major plot points by hiding them as small hidden details
  41. Place details that are important to the surprise far away from the surprise
  42. Hide plot details in a laugh
  43. Try to get the audience to laugh within the first 30 seconds of your story
  44. Make your audience laugh right before you make them cry
  45. Milk cans and a baseball analogy for humor
  46. Words with a K sound or funny for some reason
  47. Create humor using the “babies in a blender method” - put opposites next to each other. One of these things is not like the other in a list of three words the last one is nothing like the other two. For example a family reunion with games pineapple ham and despair
  48. Present tense is King. Past tense is Queen (use for backstory)
  49. When telling your hero story malign yourself and understate your accomplishments. People love the underdog.
  50. Don’t ask rhetorical questions. Don’t even address the audience.
  51. Don’t use anachronisms
  52. Don’t use props
  53. Don’t use the word “story”
  54. If you are speaking to a group - you have a duty and obligation to be engaging and entertaining.
  55. A hook is an attempt to be entertaining, surprising, daring, engaging, thought provoking, etc.
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Keegan Leary

I'm the dude the website is about.