Yes. There is a secret to great storytelling.

Is it a secret? Some times a thing is so obvious we can look at it a billion times and never know it.


You can tell where a writer is in their development by the answer they give to a simple question. What’s your story about. “It’s an epic fantasy crime noir blockbuster.” Beginners think about genre, which is nothing more than marketing categories. “It’s like The Sopranos written by Neil Gaiman.” Well OK, at least that tells us something about tone and form, but where are you, Mr Author?

It’s about a poor orphan boy who becomes a knight of the realm.

It’s about a man who protects his family but ends up destroying them.

It’s about a woman who learns to live again after losing her child.


NOW we’re getting somewhere. Not every writer knows it consciously (many do) but at the heart of 99% of the stories that have ever succeeded in fascinating an audience, is CHANGE. Were you entertained by Kingsman? Awed by The Godfather? Blown away by Gravity? Alfonso Cuaron fills the cinema screen with a vast spectacle of space based drama, but it’s the simple change at it’s heart which informs every part of the story.



A great story can be told around any kind of change. But the stories that really stick with us are stories of BECOMING. How does a boy become a king? How does a woman become a hero? How does a good person turn bad? When does childhood end? These changes are the subjects of hundreds of stories. They’re archetypal, and that makes them interesting to everybody.

Every person who ever walked the earth is only human, but some humans become exceptional, or infamous, revered or reviled. We’re wired to be fascinated by these archetypal human changes, and tune in over and over again for stories that capture them. If you want to tell stories that people love, change is the secret. Learn more about the Rhetoric of Story, course enrolment is just $59 through the weekend ending Sunday 10th July.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

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