Rhetoric of Story – Part Three

Self – the engine of story

This lecture in the Rhetoric of Story explores the second of seven foundational elements of storytelling – self. The key ideas introduced in this lecture are:

  • every story has at its heart a hero, a protagonist, a central character – a self.
  • we make sense of the world by telling a story about it and placing our self at its centre
  • to know the world, we have to know our self
  • the self is motivated by a great desire
  • desires can be conscious and unconscious
  • a great desire leads to great motivation
  • we are fascinated by how people become someone new

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True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor is a short treatise by David Mamet on the practice of theatre, drama and storytelling. Mamet’s forthright style is refreshing, and his attitude to the creative life, that it should be engaged with 100% or not at all, is a challenge to all artists.

How well do you know yourself? Consider your own life; where you were born, who your family were, the events that have shaped you. Pick a major event from early in your life. What were your conscious desire(s)? What might have been your unconscious desire? In 1000 words, tell the story of that event from your point-of-view.

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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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