Creative Scientist

The Science of Storytelling

A penguin and a plane. Our brain cannot be stopped in its automatic construction of a setting and story. In the Science of storytelling (Will Storr, 2019) the author starts by dissecting stories in order to understand their use. Doing so leads to exploring history, our brains and what characters are made of. Not only did I learn more about how to deliver an impactful message but I also got to understand more about myself. In the end, the story is realized as Mr. Borr tell us that “the Golden rule of stories is presenting characters trying to figure who they are.”



  • How to build interesting characters? Everyone got his own interpretation of the world with qualities and flaws, the latter are interesting so as to feel like being someone else for the duration of the story
  • Implicit is rather important as to let reader figure the missing parts or to simply describe scenes with sensory information and metaphors, the same than our brain does.
  • To enter the flawed mind of another is to be reassured that it’s not only us.
  • Golden rule of stories, the characters are trying to figure who they are.
  • Stories about who we are is trying to understand and predict our behavior
  • 2 conflicting ambitions: get along and get ahead, create drama
  • Nice people are boring
  • 3.11 super interesting, only way to describe human is with their imperfection
  • “What are the identity-forming beliefs you cling to and define you that are wrong and often harm you?” View or reality might make them look invisible or even like virtues
  • Example of author’s one –> I believe other people are dangerous, lead to by shy, then in his thirties not make effort to keep friends and make news ones, and now worrying about being alone “pleasant solitude and bitter loneliness are two expressions of the same face”
  • Neural model shape our world vision e.g. abstract situation interpretation as good or bad, or focusing on good or bad
  • We try to control physical and social worlds to fit as closely as possible to our model
  • We can’t stop ourselves from acting e.g. counting to 2000 in prison cell


  • Our brain is wired for association of ideas. PINGUIN, PLANE. Just 2 words but you can’t stop your brain imagining what the story is.
  • One would rather have bizarre explanation rather to reject our own view of the world
  • Narrator is our inner voice, trying to explain what and why is happening after the fact i.e. perception. He has a tendency to not always be true or to interpret behavior with explanation that are rational for us, making us the hero
  • Truth is many aspect of personalities are unconscious and cant be accessed by conscious narrator voice
  • As well as different model for the world, we have different models for ourselves

Emergence of stories

  • Stories emerged as gossip, putting selfless actions as good and selfish as bad
  • Those stories helped with group cohesion and extended to religion
  • Helps individuals act morally?
  • Can be found since hunter-gatherer and very early in life
  • Gossip i.e. we are obsessed with social status
  • HG and our current society have gossip about high-status people committing moral infractions

Strong storylines

  • Stories are based on tension and resolution, expectations matched or not, rather like in music.
  • Common story of us: underdog, low in status, feeling that we have hidden qualities that could grand us a big status, very popular storyline, we all cheer when the underdog wins
  • “Everyone feel lacking in status”
  • We are wired to dislike high-status persons, we struggle to empathize with them as humans, we think higher status makes everything easy
  • Stories are rules of social games, how to win status? By doing courageous and “selfless” activities
  • Humiliation put self in jeopardy and make effort to get back lost status
  • Hunting for the original damage in the hero’s life is another strong story telling device


  • Character in short: Connection –> status –> goal
  • Story in short: Crisis –> struggle –> resolution
  • Western ending tells a lesson vs. Eastern one let the reader figure for himself the conclusion
  • We are our personal projects!