Review: Science of Storytelling

I first heard of this book whilst listening to an interview Tim Clare did with the author. Will Storr gave an excellent interview and even within the podcast he made some amazing points about storytelling that blew my mind. I went out to buy the book almost immediately and I would highly recommend you check out the interview at the very least.

A lovely cover!

The Science of Storytelling is a relatively short book, listed as 288 pages and there’s a fair chunk of notes and references in the back as well, but it is absolutely saturated with insight and lessons.

This book felt different to the other writing books that I’ve read before. It starts by explaining how our brains create the worlds we live in then moves on to the flaws that define us, the question every story needs to ask and then plots. Finally, it gives some writing exercises to help you create a story with a strong protagonist at its centre.

As I say, this book is saturated with information. I had to stop reading to be able to find a pencil to highlight all of the passages that illuminated some fresh part of storytelling and character creation for me.

I think one of the things that I most enjoyed and found most useful about this book is how it frames the flaws that we see in our characters. For some reason I think I have always struggled a little to come up with a flaw for a character that they learn to fix throughout the story. Something in my mind turns away from thinking of it like that, but Will Storr phrases it as the Sacred Flaw.

It’s not a flaw that needs to be fixed (as far as the characters are concerned) it’s something that they’ve molded themselves around and used to build the world they inhabit.

For example, a political leader who always thinks that they’re the smartest person in the room. It’s certainly a flaw that they think that but to them it’s a strength and what has given them the drive to catapult them to the very top of the political agenda. But once they’re there and begin to interact with their political equals who need to be treated with respect then we can introduce conflict and create a story from that.

The way that Will Storr explains all this and more in this book blew my mind and I am incredibly excited to put it to use in my stories.

I absolutely recommend this book to anyone writing stories in any medium.

[The Science of Storytelling on Goodreads]

Review: The Hidden Face by S. C. Flynn

This author kindly sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The main protagonist in The Hidden Face is Dayraven, who has just returned to his homeland after years away being a political hostage to a rival empire, and is the son of a hero of the Faustian Empire. Followed by Sunniva, the daughter of a famous architect who is masquerading as a soldier when we meet her. We also see the events unfold from the perspective of Astolf – a high priest who has been a rival of Dayraven for years – and the Twister – a hunchback who skirts the edges of madness.

In the world of The Hidden Face the sun god, Akhen, takes human form to live on earth and is known as the Face of Akhen. There have been four such ‘unmaskings’ in history and each time the Face of Akhen leads the nation they were born into to a golden age of supremacy. As you may have guessed from the title, this book takes place when the revelation of the next Face of Akhen isn’t far off.

It’s an interesting premise, and I liked the idea of the story. Unfortunately, the style wasn’t for me style and spoiled my enjoyment of the story.

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As we are introduced to new characters Flynn often shows us flashbacks of relevant parts of the that character’s life so that we have some context for their reactions in the scene. It felt like every time I was beginning to get to know the character I was thrown back to the past so that they could explain something that happened to them years ago.

For me that slowed the story right down and was very frustrating.

The book is laden with the mystery of the next Face of Akhen. The protagonists must work together to solve clues left by their mentors about the next Face.

When a mystery is included in a story I think that a reader should be given the opportunity to solve it along with the characters, whether that’s subtle foreshadowing of the solution, or putting clues in that the readers can pick up on.

In the first part of the book a lot of the clues seemed to be based on different alphabets within the world, which is fine, but I don’t know what these alphabets or codes are or how they fit together so I felt like I was being left to watch the protagonists discuss the clues whilst I was on the sidelines.

Unfortunately, these just combined to make a style that didn’t suit me and meant that I didn’t enjoy the book. The flashbacks and the way the clues were solved meant that I kept glancing away from the page and so it felt quite slow for me.

The ideas behind the story and the setting did seem interesting and if the style had been different I’d be very keen to see how the story unfolds.

If the story sounds like it would be interesting to you I’d suggest checking out a sample of the book and seeing if the style is your kind of thing.

Here’s a link to goodreads.