Chapter 1: Creating a world. -- Where does a story begin? -- Moments of change; the control-seeking brain -- Curiosity -- The model-making brain; how we read; grammar; filmic word order; simplicity; active versus passive language; specific detail; show-not-tell -- World-making in fantasy and science fiction -- The domesticated brain; theory of mind in animism and religion; how theory-of-mind mistakes create drama -- Salience; creating tension with detail -- Neural models; poetry; metaphor -- Cause and effect; literary versus mass-market storytelling -- Change is not enough -- Chapter 2: The flawed self. -- The flawed self; the theory of control -- Personality and plot -- Personality and setting -- Personality and point of view -- Cuture and character; western versus eastern story -- Anatomy of a flawed self; the ignition point -- Fictional memories; moral delusions; antagoinsts and moral idealism; antagonists and toxic self-esteem; the hero-maker narrative -- David and Goliath -- How flawed characters create meaning -- Chapter 3: The dramatic questions. -- Confabulation and the deluded character -- The two levels of story; how subconscious character struggle creates plot -- Modernist stories -- Wanting and needing -- Dialogue -- The roots of the dramatic question; social emotions; heroes and villains; moral outrage -- Status play -- King Lear; humiliation -- Stories as tribal propaganda -- Antiheroes; empathy -- Origin damage -- Chapter 4: Plots, endings and meaning. -- Goal directedness; video games; personal projects; eudaemonia; plots -- Plot as recipe versus plot as symphony of change -- The final battle -- Endings; control; the God moment -- Story as a simulacrum of consciousness; transportation -- The power of story -- The lesson of story -- The consolation of story -- Appendix: The sacred flaw approach.
Who would we be without stories? Stories mould who we are, from our character to our cultural identity. They drive us to act out our dreams and ambitions, and shape our politics and beliefs. We use them to construct our relationships, to keep order in our law courts, to interpret events in our newspapers and social media. Storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human. There have been many attempts to understand what makes a good story from Joseph Campbell's well-worn theories about myth and archetype to recent attempts to crack the 'Bestseller Code'. But few have used a scientific approach. This is curious, for if we are to truly understand storytelling in its grandest sense, we must first come to understand the ultimate storyteller the human brain. In this scalpel-sharp, thought-provoking book, Will Storr demonstrates how master storytellers manipulate and compel us, leading us on a journey from the Hebrew scriptures to Mr Men, from Booker Prize-winning literature to box set TV. Applying dazzling psychological research and cutting-edge neuroscience to the foundations of our myths and archetypes, he shows how we can use these tools to tell better stories - and make sense of our chaotic modern world.