Storytelling 101

by Patrick Thomas. Issue 001.


Welcome to the very first (ultra-rare, extra-special) edition of The Story is the Strategy, a newsletter about becoming a world-class business communicator. My mission is to help you become a remarkable storyteller and increase your impact by building a very particular set of skills. Each week on Wednesdays, you’ll get new writing from the blog, ideas about storytelling and tips that you can put into action right away. Feedback is a gift, so please let me know what you like and what you don’t so I can make things better.

What I’m Working On

I’ve published a brand new page on my website called Storytelling 101 (under the Start Here section.) It sets out all of the topic areas and skills you need to work on to improve your storytelling chops, with recommended books for each. There are lots of recommendations to add to your reading list. I hope you find something you enjoy.

This page is basically the blueprint for this entire project, and it’s a great place to start thinking about the skills you want to hone. I’ll update it regularly and go deep on all the topics listed there in future posts.

Idea to Consider

Thinking about reading. When you’re reading lots of books, you’re spending valuable time, and it can be hard to understand what you’re getting from it. There’s a fantastic essay by Paul Graham called How You Know which addresses this point. He argues that even though you can’t remember exactly what you read, it still shapes and improves how you think about a topic. “Reading and experience,” he says, “train your model of the world.”

That’s always been my approach. When I read, I don’t worry about taking too many notes or remembering specific things. I spend time with the material and let it improve my model. This helps me frame reading as a fun experience rooted in serendipity, and I always want to make time for it. How do you think about reading?

Leveling Up

There’s a great story about Amos Tversky, the famous Israeli psychologist and partner of Danny Kahneman. If he was stuck in a boring meeting with no good excuse to leave, he’d force himself to just get up and head for the door. In that instant, with everyone looking at him, he’d always think of an excuse.

The lesson for a storyteller? Read your work out loud to someone else. There’s something magical about the forcing function of reading out loud in real time. It sparks an instant comprehension of the weak points in your argument, of any awkward phrasing, and of any narrative structure that doesn’t make sense. When you write a draft of something, the audience is you. Your brain has lots of context which smooths over poor writing. When you speak it, the audience is someone else. That tweak, as Tversky knew, is enough to give you plenty of inspiration.