Book Review: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

Humans make a narrative out of anything. A painting drops from the wall, and we think there are hidden motives behind it. There is an extra susurrus in the darkness, and we see glowing eyes and figures despite there being none. Narration is our surviving power alone and as a group, and it’s no wonder we are drawn into stories. And it’s no wonder that there are specific kinds of stories that speak to us. Will Storr looked behind the science of storytelling through a social psychology’s perspective, combining them with wisdom found in writing guidebooks.

Everything boils down to characters (flawed ones,) our mind detecting changes, and for our need to understand. Those are already good building blocks for any story. He moves on explaining why stories matter, how we handle them, and why we need them (survival and group coherence). And to top it all he explains how to use them in writing, drawing examples from well-known books and movies. A warning, though, the book contains spoilers. If you plan to read Gone Girl or watch Lawrence of Arabia, then maybe read this book afterward.

If you are a writer or someone who wants to understand why stories matter or how and why we come up with stories, I recommend this book. It’s well written, the writer justifies his conclusions, and he offers clear examples of how to use the science behind storytelling as a writer. Will Storr even offers examples on how to start your story so it will draw the reader in. That is advice worth more than gold.

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