Book reviews

"Do Story" (Bobette Buster, 2013)

I bought this book a summer afternoon, just because it seemed interesting. Oh, and also, it was prominently displayed on Foyle's recommendations. So for some reason I succumbed to their suggestions machine.

It's quite easy to read, but it's not a book that made a huge impact on me. I guess maybe I had already been exposed to the same principles the book teaches, and that's why it didn't come as much of a life-changing shock to me as I expected. Anyway, it has a good structure that can serve as a reminder when preparing a new presentation / book / story.


These caught my mind:

  • Humans love stories. Always have and always will!
  • Telling a story is powerful, and inspiring
  • Untold stories can be lethal
  • Although some stories are destructive
  • this book is about the good, healing stories
  • good stories have structure: beginning, middle and end
  • stories have a 'threshold' moment---what do we do when we reach that point? do we run away or face the fear and tell the rest of the story?
  • similarly we also play a part in a grand story, we should recognise this 'meta narrative' and let go into it---even accept the 'threshold' moments and let the story change us
The 10 principles of storytelling

  1. tell your story as if you're telling it to a friend
  2. set the GPS: give place, time, setting, context. But keep it short.
  3. use active verbs! ("think Hemingway")
  4. juxtaposition. Take two ideas and place them together, colliding.
  5. gleaming detail: choose something ordinary that becomes a 'gleaming detail' and captures the essence of the story.
  6. hand over the spark. Reflect on the idea that captivated you and hand it to the audience---carry the fire.
  7. be vulnerable. Dare to share the emotion of your story---your doubt, anger, joy, epiphany.
  8. the sense---choose the strongest of the five senses in the story and use it to make a deeper connection
  9. bring yourself---a story is as much about you as anything else
  10. let go. Hand over the story, let it build, then end and get out fast. Leave the audience wanting more.
Stories are about transformation

Straightly quoting because I liked that one:

For many of us our personal story is hinged on a particular moment that caused us to completely change our lives and the direction in which we were heading, whether in our personal or professional lives. For many, this transformative moment became the starting point for our life's work.
"handing over the spark" in this context is making other feel what we felt at that moment.

An audience is always asking: please move me so that I will care.

We are all unique. We all faced difficult circumstances, but it is how we made our choices in those circumstances that make us unique.

A sensory retelling of a story helps the audience "feel" it, and if the sense is particularly evocative, allow the story to linger long after the telling ends.

Every protagonist has an antagonist---who's the antagonist in your life? finding it leads to discovering something new in the stories of each of us.

All the best stories provide a sort of psychological preparation for life's inevitable struggles.