Book review: The Science of Story Telling

Praveen S
Friday, February 4, 2022

‘The science of storytelling’ is very different from many books on crafting good fiction. While the other books took the shape of how-to-guides, Will Storr’s book took a scientific approach. This book goes in to the science of what makes a good story by going in to the science of how our brain creates and appreciate stories. The books in the founded liberally using theories from psychology and brain science.

Another major difference from other books to fiction writing is the difference in content. All other books rely on ‘pre-occupation with structure’. They provide detail direction on what is plot, how to make a plot, how to make the plot interesting etc. However, Will Storr, in this book shifts the focus from plot to character, and from events to people. The author stress that it on people than the readers are ultimately interested in. In the author’s words, “it is the plight of specific, flawed, and fascinating individuals that make us cheer, weep, and ram our heads into the sofa cushion.” The author notes that there are different ways in the which the characters are uniquely flawed, and this makes the stories interesting to readers. And this unique flawed self, they have to consistently showcase throughout their behaviour. It is this valuable information on how uniquely flawed characters fill our brain’s models with interesting stories is what is unique to Storr’s book.

The book is built on the metaphor of brain as a story processor. Using various scientific  evidences the authors argue that brain processes stories. Brain keeps on processing stories on itself by interconnecting facts that are stored in the brain. This activity that the brain does, the author argues, is ‘as natural as breadth’. Even by connecting relatively unconnected items, brain creates mental models woven as stories. Storr’s first try to identify how brain makes these stories, then presents how we can write better fiction so that it appeals to the brain to make better stories when it reads what it written. Good fiction provide food for the brain to make better stories. By understanding what attracts and hold the attention of the brain, writers can create ‘stories that are gripping, profound, emotional, and original’.

 According to Storr, it is the stories that give how life the illusion of meaning. Brain does that role as continuing to process stories. Good fiction just aids brain to do that role. Based on these theories, Storr suggest several approaches that good ultimately become good fiction.