Read Time: 2 minutes

I asked GPT-4 to share the 10 most interesting facts it knows about the art and craft of storytelling.

I must admit, it told me some things I didn’t know:

1. When we hear stories, our brains release oxytocin, a hormone associated with empathy.

  • Stories affect us not just mentally, but neurologically.

2. Storytelling enhances memory. We’re more likely to remember information if it’s woven into a narrative.

  • This phenomenon aligns with the field of “Narrative Psychology,” which studies how storytelling aids in memory retention.

3. “The Rule of Threes” suggests things in threes are more satisfying to audiences.

  • Think Three Little Pigs, The Three Amigos, or the three-act structure in movies and books.

4. Storytelling is universal, dating back to cave paintings and oral traditions.

  • It’s part of every human society transcending time, place, and culture.

5. Kurt Vonnegut positioned stories as shapes, identifying a few key narrative arcs.

  • Examples include “Man in a Hole” (someone gets into trouble, then gets out of it), and “Boy Meets Girl” (things are going well, then go badly, then end well), among others.

6. “In Medias Res” is Latin for ‘in the midst of things.’ It’s when a story starts at the height of action.

  • This approach immediately seizes attention, such as in Pulp Fiction and Fight Club.

7. Storytelling styles vary between cultures.

  • Western stories tend to be linear, while some cultures favor a circular narrative.

8. The Hero’s Journey is perhaps the most recognized narrative structure, featuring a hero, a conflict, and a resolution.

  • Joseph Campbell studied myths from various cultures and found this common pattern.

9. “Chekhov’s Gun” principle insists that every story element must be necessary.

  • No false promises because every narrative element must serve a purpose, and irrelevant elements should be cut.

10. Flashbacks and Flash-forwards can add depth by revealing backstory or foreshadowing.

  • Used strategically, they enhance a story’s intrigue and depth.

Develop Your Story with AI:

Now let’s use AI to integrate these neuroscience-backed storytelling secrets into your narrative.

ChatGPT Prompt:

// edit bold text in [brackets] //

Imagine you are a master story architect with deep knowledge of the psychological impact and universal structures of bestselling novels and blockbuster screenplays.

With a foundation in a genre of [Insert Genre Here]

and a core narrative concept of [Insert Story Concept or Summary Here],

Incorporating characters with nuanced traits [Insert Character Details including roles such as protagonist and/or antagonist],

Let’s refine the narrative with precision.

Perform a detailed analysis, offering extremely insightful feedback and ideas for this story using these ten vital aspects:

• How can we integrate the brain’s response to storytelling, such as the release of oxytocin, to deepen the emotional connection with the audience?

• In what ways can the story structure be designed to enhance audience impact using key plot points?

• How might the “Rule of Threes” be applied to this story’s structure or character arcs to create a more satisfying experience?

• Where can elements of universal storytelling be woven in to resonate across cultures and time?

• Considering Kurt Vonnegut’s narrative shapes, which arc fits this story best, and how can it be executed more effectively?

• Can we initiate the story “In Medias Res” to captivate the audience from the outset? How would this impact the overall narrative flow?

• How can cultural storytelling variations be included to enrich the narrative’s appeal?

• In what ways can The Hero’s Journey be tailored to this particular narrative and its characters?

• Where should we apply “Chekhov’s Gun” to ensure every element introduced is necessary and impactful?

• How can flashbacks or flash-forwards be strategically placed to add depth and foreshadow future events?

Your detailed and sharp feedback is invaluable. Aim to align your critique with the story’s genre, core concept, and character dynamics. Your insights will not only intensify the characters’ portrayal but also elevate the narrative’s entire framework.

That’s it for this Saturday.

If you’re finding value in TSS, please share it with a fellow storyteller.

See ya next week!

— Dave