How To Tell A Story (Five Days)

Starting out | Fiction
Join us for a groundbreaking five day course that promises to give writers a new understanding of their craft, based on the book 'The Science of Storytelling' by bestselling author and novelist Will Storr.
In the past, scholars have tried to unlock the secrets of story in a top-down fashion, by comparing successful myths, films and novels and seeing what they have in common. This search for the ‘perfect’ structure has ushered in an industrial revolution in mass-market storytelling. How To Tell A Story takes the opposite approach. It looks instead to the human brain. The brain is a natural storyteller that turns the events of our lives into a dramatic three-act narrative of crisis, struggle, resolution and fills it full of allies and villains and drama and emotion. Writers exploit these neural functions often without knowing exactly how they’re doing it or why. How To Tell A Story is an accessible course that reveals the brain’s inherent story-making processes and turns them into solid, practical principles that should benefit writers of all levels of experience. It will help you create compelling and cliché-free characters who create their own plots that don’t rely on standard story structures.

Many writing guides and courses treat story as if it’s a product of engineering: as long as you put the right pieces and parts in the correct places, you’ll have created something perfect. But story wasn’t designed intentionally by an engineer and there is no ‘grail’ in the form of a precise blueprint. Story resembles much more a product of biology. It’s emerged over many thousands of years. Story exists in no one ideal form and has no one explanation. How To Tell A Story examines its subject from several perspectives, looking at how it emerged in the human species, how it functions, how it helps us as individuals and social creatures, why it’s enjoyable and why it takes such different forms. Story is a product of brain and mind, and an understanding of neuroscience and psychology can help the writer better understand what they’re doing and why.

How To Tell A Story is focussed not just on theory but on practical advice. It will give attendees fresh ways of thinking about many aspects of technique, including characterisation, plotting, dialogue, subtext, antagonists and endings. Morning lectures and discussions give way to afternoon workshop sessions during which attendees will work on their own stories using How To Tell A Story principles. Over the course of the week, Will Storr will introduce his unique ‘Sacred Flaw Approach’ for creating character-driven stories.

The week will be filled with amazing insights about the storytelling brain that will be applied to one or more examples of successful storytelling. From Citizen Kane to Gone Girl, The Remains of the Day to Breaking Bad, we’ll discover how each of these stories is working from a scientific perspective.

Fundamentally, all storytellers have the same challenge: to catch and keep the attention of brains. Until now, most of what we’ve learned about how to do this has been by trial and error – we see what works in other people’s stories and copy it. In this way, writers are a bit like mechanics trying to understand how cars work by driving them. How To Tell A Story opens the bonnet and shows you the engine.

“There’s nothing else quite like Will’s approach, with its illuminating, scientific take on writing technique. All storytellers, no matter what their experience, are likely to go away with a new understanding of their writing process that will deepen and nourish their work.” Craig Pearce, co-writer with Baz Luhrmann: Strictly Ballroom, Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby

13th - 17th January 2020

Availability: In stock

15 Places

Sessions run from 10am-4pm each day, with an hour's break for lunch. The course is divided into four days. A midweek fifth day is devoted to a guest speaker.


How the brain creates a world
How the brain creates a flawed character
How ‘theory of mind’ creates plot
The importance of goal direction
The secret of ‘the ignition point’


How the dramatic question drives all storytelling
How understanding psychological damage and trauma creates original characters
The two levels of cause and effect
How the subconscious makes credible and unpredictable characters who generate their own plots

Marcel Theroux takes the reins


The roots of storytelling
The secret of the ‘dramatic question’
How evolved tribal emotions power all story – and how to exploit them
How cause and effect is the natural language of the brain – and the natural language of story
Using psychology to make three dimensional characters
Good and evil; protagonists and antagonists
Using neuroscience to understand technique: show-not-tell, metaphor, detail, active-vs-passive language


Story as a simulacrum of consciousness
The scientific study of plots
Breaking free of off-the-shelf plots by understanding what the brain wants
The secret of a satisfying ending
Introducing The Sacred Flaw Approach to storytelling

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Will Storr is a multi award-winning longform journalist and author, who specialises in science. His work has appeared in The Guardian Weekend, The ...


Marcel Theroux is the author of five novels: A Blow to the Heart, A Stranger in the Earth, The Paperchase (winner of the...



Come to one of the world's great literary cities and study creative writing at Faber Academy's home in historic Bloomsbury. Our London courses take place at Faber and Faber's offices.

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