Storytelling and Writing Tips

story1 150x150 Storytelling and Writing TipsCreativity is the process of bringing into reality what was not in existence before, or reimagining what has already been created in a totally different way. It’s our curiosity and desire to create the good life that allow us to explore our creative selves as we interact with the world around us. It becomes a journey of discovery into the nature of being. Here are some great articles on Storytelling and Writing:

How Stories Sell: The Psychology Of Storytelling | Raven
Some psychologists believe our affinity for stories may have developed out of the evolutionary advantage it gave our species. Instead of having to learn from our own mistakes about the dangers in the world around us, storytelling allowed humans to take lessons from one another’s cautionary tales. Science has yielded some fascinating insights into the way our brains respond to stories. Researchers at Washington University in St Louis studied the levels of brain activation while participants read excerpts from a story called “One Boy’s Day,” which chronicled the activities of a youngster named Raymond

50 Rantypants Snidbits Of Random Writing & Storytelling Advice 
I get a lot of emails. And questions at conferences. And psychic missives sent through the galactic nebula from various superior alien species. And they ask me questions about writing and so I thought I’d drop a big ol’ compilation of writing advice — answers to many of the questions I get — here in this whopper of a post. A list of fifty. My first. (Likely my last, though I’ll also note: this list of 50 is as long as many of my lists of 25, word-wise). Go forth. Read. Absorb. Yell at me. Share if you like

The Surprising Lessons In Storytelling You Can Scratch Out
The show that features a cat behaviorist called Jackson Galaxy and some unbalanced felines may or may not be your thing. But the show’s exec producer can haz some worthwhile insight into what makes good TV–reality or otherwise. You might call My Cat From Hell Animal Planet’s answer to Dog Whisperer. The show stars Jackson Galaxy (yes, that’s right), a pierced, tattooed, self-described cat behaviorist who helps couples tame their nightmare felines. These cats pee on furniture, yowl through the night, beat up fellow pets and draw blood from their owners’ skin. Armed with a guitar case full of cat toys, Galaxy swoops in to assess the problem, give owners homework and achieve a solution

Lucas and Spielberg on storytelling in games: ‘it’s not going to be 
With titles like Quantum Break and the upcoming Halo series, the convergence of gaming and narrative storytelling has become an intense focal point — but the men behind Indiana Jones and Star Wars think gaming will never be able to provide the same type of rich experience traditional storytelling does. Speaking Wednesday at a panel at the University of Southern California — joined by Microsoft’s Don Mattrick — George Lucas and Steven Spielberg argued that introducing the concept of interactivity fundamentally changes the experience. “They’re always going to be different,” Lucas said when asked if movies and games were going to become more similar. “They’re never going to be the same”

15 rules of storytelling–and then some | Advancing the Story
Writing a two-minute TV news story is nothing like writing a screenplay for a movie. Or is it? Truth is, all writing has some things in common. Take this list from Emma Coats, a former screenwriter at Pixar, the movie studio. Of her 22 rules of storytelling, more than a handful apply to the kind of writing we journalists do

Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies

sf dystopia11 Predictions from the Best Science Fiction MoviesScience fiction is a genre of storytelling concerned with imagining alternate worlds and futures based on scientific principles, while predicting how our lives will be affected by these new realities. The genre provides a roadmap of the evolution of the imagination as we have moved from dwelling in caves to skyscrapers and, ultimately, space colonies.

Science fiction writers often use the genre to explore controversial issues confronting society and warn about the bleak future awaiting us, if we do not change our current behavior. If you have read my book, How to Create the Good Life from Reel Life, then you know that even when a utopian society is envisioned, where everyone is free from want, unhappiness, pain, and suffering, it winds up becoming dystopian in nature, which suggests there’s no escaping the darker side of human nature.

Today, we live in a world with many complex problems still needing to be solved. We are witnessing more natural disasters as a result of climate change, buildings collapsing with no means of rescuing the people buried beneath the rubble, people losing limbs in wars and terror attacks without the ability to regrow them, the rise of Social Darwinism with the death of the American Dream, pointless partisan gridlock in Congress that is hastening the country’s decline, and an escalation of cyberwarfare among nations, just to name a few.

If the future is now, then the following Sci-Fi movies seek to interrogate our current social and political systems, and the impact of technology and medical science on our morality, identity, and belief-system:


sf1 1984 300x300 Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: The activities of citizens are monitored and controlled by a totalitarian government.
Reality: Recent revelations about the U.S. surveillance programs indicate that Big Brother is watching us in the name of fighting terrorism. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Americans appear more reconciled to losing some rights to privacy and other civil liberties for greater security.

Blade Runner

sf2 blade Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Los Angeles becomes a dystopian society that is polluted, overcrowded and besieged by corporate advertising. Human clones or replicants that were created to work as laborers on an off-world colony have rebelled and are being hunted down by Blade Runners driving gravity-defying vehicles.
Reality: The cloning of humans remains illegal, although animals have been successfully cloned. The infrastructure for gravity-defying automobiles is still not a reality, but the first driverless car has been built by Google. Even though we are bombarded by nonstop advertisement, it is what enables us to access free infotainment.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

sf3 ai Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Lifelike robots will take care of the basic needs of humans, and even fill the emotional void in their lives.
Reality: Humans have become dependent on their smart phones and electronic devices, rather than on personal robots. Despite the many benefits of technology in the workplace, it is causing large-scale worker obsolescence.

Minority Report

sf4 minority Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Law enforcement agencies will predict and stop crimes before they occur.
Reality: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is engaged in an ongoing battle to anticipate and prevent acts of terror before they occur. It is not unusual for drone strikes to be ordered on suspected foreign terrorists.

The Island

sf5 island Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Clones of human beings will be harvested for replaceable body parts.
Reality: Advances in medicine are helping to extend the lifespan of humans, which means that the better we understand stem cells and DNA, the faster we will be able to cure life-threatening diseases, reverse aging and grow replaceable body parts.

Demolition Man

sf6 demo Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Criminals and other misfits are removed from society and cryogenically preserved.
Reality: Even though cryogenics still remains in the realm of science fiction, some people have chosen to be cryogenically preserved after they die, with the hope that science will advance where they could be brought back to life. On the other hand, with the rise of the prison industrial complex, more citizens are being locked away and are serving longer sentences. Those prisoners who are buried alive for twenty-three hours and then resuscitated for one hour each day quietly go insane, which seems to suggest that cryogenically preserving prisoners may be a little more humane.

The Handmaid’s Tale

sf7 handmaid Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Less privileged women are forced to become surrogate mothers for the elites in society.
Reality: Surrogacy is voluntary in America and all parties are protected by a written contract. However, some couples from the West pay women in developing countries to become their surrogate mothers. Not to be outdone, lawmakers in America are trying to turn back the clock by enacting new laws to force women to bear children against their will, even in cases of rape and incest.


sf8 2012 Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Climate change will cause severe natural disasters.
Reality: On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast and caused about $60 billion in damages, which proves how prescient this prediction was in its timing. More investment is needed to develop better advance warning systems and to build sturdier shelters.


sf10 gattaca Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Society is divided based on the genetics of its citizens.
Reality: As we become better at manipulating the DNA code, more parents may be tempted to decide the sex of their unborn children and the physical characteristics they wish them to have. Expectant parents are already being informed of potential birth defects and have the option of not carrying the babies to term.

Soylent Green

sf11 soylent Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Climate change and overpopulation will cause severe food shortages.
Reality: As more forests and farmlands are converted into cities, it is becoming increasingly hard to feed the world’s population. It is no wonder we are seeing the rise of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As a result, more people are opting to purchase organic foods as an alternative.

War of the Worlds

sf12 war Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: An alien invasion from Mars forces nations to fight together for the very survival of earth.
Reality: We are yet to be contacted by Martians or other aliens, although NASA recently sent a rover to Mars on an exploration mission. It will be interesting to see our response if Martians are encountered, since we already have a hard time getting along with each other from the same species.

I Am Legend

sf14 legend Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: A pandemic disease leaves a sole survivor, who must navigate his way amid an infected population.
Reality: We are in a perpetual race to find a vaccine for one infectious disease after another. These superbugs are developing immunity to antibiotics and pose a serious health risk to the global community. The good news is that search engines like Google can help us identify infected areas as people search online for more information about the diseases.

The Road

sf theroad Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: A father and son encounter lawless cannibalistic gangs as they travel across a post-apocalyptic America.
Reality: We have witnessed a new form of cannibalism by corporate elites, who might as well have fed on their fellow citizens, after stripping the country of its manufacturing sector and turning many neighborhoods into ghost towns. With the collapse of the economy after the 2008 Great Recession, many Americans are finding themselves traveling a metaphorical post-apocalyptic road.

Total Recall

sf18 totalrecall Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: People are willing pay to experience fake memories and alternate states of reality.
Reality: The Internet has created myriad ways for us to be entertained twenty-hours a day, ranging from cable network programming, streaming movies, videogames, and social networking sites. If creativity depends on stilling the senses, then one is hard-pressed to imagine what kind of future will be invented.

Fahrenheit 451

sf 451 Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Firefighters are ordered to burn books as part of a government program to suppress free thought and individualism.
Reality: Instead of a problem with censorship, we are experiencing quite the opposite with the overabundance of self-published works. The digital revolution has made it quite easy for indie authors to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of the publishing industry, who once guided the culture and acted as curators. It has disrupted the industry by driving down the cost of books and shrinking the profit margin of many companies.

The Art of Being

artofbeing 300x218 The Art of Being“To be, or not to be” is the opening line of a soliloquy uttered by Hamlet, as he ponders the meaning of life and whether the price we pay is worth the suffering that we must endure to experience it. Hamlet is a gentle and introspective young man, who is not given to bold action. One day, his tranquil world is turned upside down, after the ghost of his recently deceased father visits him.

Hamlet’s father reveals that he was murdered by his brother, Claudius, who has been crowned king and is married to Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude. His father demands that Hamlet avenge his death. To do otherwise, would mean dishonoring his father’s memory and being branded a coward. This is the life script that Hamlet is handed to work out his destiny. It’s no wonder that Shakespeare writes in his play, As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

What does your life script look like? Even though we do not get to choose the type of script we receive in life, we can still decide how we play our roles by making the best possible choices that are available within our particular set of circumstances. To be sure, we are all born with a certain backstory, within a particular family, culture, historical context and socio-economic status that will shape our experiences, values and belief system. Thus, your particular background will inform your decisions and influence your actions. Even though we live in a society with a justice system that saves us from avenging the wrongful death of a loved one, the same code that guided Hamlet’s society, i.e., loyalty, honor, courage, are the same values that are admired today.

Ultimately, the essence of what we seek in life is happiness. Even though we pursue external objects and experiences as major goals in life, any happiness we derive arises from deep within ourselves. Happiness is a state of being. It is our essential nature. Just like reel life heroes, we may feel a certain lack in our lives, or possess a character flaw that keeps us from living the good life. It is this need for change and self-improvement that stirs the mind and embarks us on an incredible journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment.

It is just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who feels unloved and decides to run away from the home where she lives with her aunt and uncle. She is swept away by a tornado and winds up in the Land of Oz. As she follows the yellow brick road to find the Wizard of Oz, she meets Scarecrow who desires a brain, Tinman who seeks a heart and Cowardly Lion who wishes for more courage. By the time Dorothy reaches her destination, she discovers that happiness is a byproduct of helping others and that “there’s no place like home.” By venturing out into the unknown, she discovers what is truly valuable in life.

We all play a variety of roles throughout our lives, beginning with being members of a family unit and part of a larger community.  If you are unlucky to be an orphan like Oliver Twist, then your life may turn out to be extremely difficult. It will require greater coping skills to navigate the world. If you have read my book, How to Create the Good Life from Reel Life, then you know that once you decide on a goal, you will find everyone else is either there to support, or oppose you in your quest. Similarly, depending on whether you wish to cooperate or compete with others, you will find yourself frequently changing masks and playing the role of a shapeshifter. Depending on the situation, you may change your personality to assume the role of a friend, confidante, mentor, gossip, flirt, snitch, pessimist, optimist, panderer, or aggressor, just to name a few.

In Oliver’s case, he finds himself with no good options. His mother dies in a workhouse while giving birth to him. By the time he is nine years old, he is sent to the main workhouse where he toils away, but receives barely any food in return.  After running away to London, he is recruited as a member of a gang of pickpockets. Oliver is clueless that the gang is involved in criminal activity.  He yearns to become part of a family and even though his situation is not ideal, he works hard to be accepted. It is not until he is arrested that his life changes serendipitously, and he discovers that he is not an orphan after all.

What the movie, Oliver Twist, reveals is that there are times when we need to surrender to certain situations that are beyond our control. Not surprisingly, they embark us on an inner journey that leaves us feeling lost, lonely and frightened. These hardships are there to test and instruct us, so we must persist through doubt and fear. Sometimes it may even seem like we are standing at the end of a long, dark tunnel with no way out. But, if we keep our focus on the essence of what we hope to achieve, it will act as a beacon of light guiding our destiny.

As human beings, we possess an uncanny ability to imagine the outcome of whatever we desire and simulate the emotions that we expect to experience as though they were real. It is what gives us the freedom to dream the impossible. It is what keeps us motivated whenever obstacles are confronted. By creating an image of what we desire in the mind, we become like an artist painting a picture on a canvas.  Since thoughts become things, we attract the people and circumstances that can help to make them a reality.

In The Secret Garden, a young orphan, Mary Lennox, is sent from India to live with her uncle in a gloomy, old castle in England.  Life for Mary becomes an adventure as she discovers a bedridden cousin, Colin, who is kept locked away in his room because of his disability, and a secret garden that has been locked up since her aunt passed away. Mary sets to work, tirelessly restoring the garden to its former glory and inspiring Colin to believe that he can walk again. In so doing, she restores life in the garden and love in the castle.

What Mary reminds us is that we all need a Secret Garden to escape and regenerate ourselves. It should be a place of beauty and serenity, where we can find solace and solitude. Such a sanctuary must be created deep within ourselves, where we can withdraw from the hustle and bustle of the world. It must be a place where past and future do not exist.  What we did yesterday, or last year, is past and gone, except for the memories that still flicker in our minds. Tomorrow remains nothing more than a dream. All we have is this present moment, which is the seat of our power.

Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

martian4 Top 10 Movies that Define the American CharacterWhat if a Martian, calling himself Joules, shows up on your doorstep and tells you that he is on a special mission to learn more about Americans. Since we are currently exploring his planet, he has been sent here on earth to learn more about us.

Joules promises to grant you one wish in exchange for this information. Will you invite him into your home in the interest of interplanetary friendship? How will you describe the American character to him? What “top 10 movies” will you choose to demonstrate your point? The following is a partial list of movies from my book, How to Create the Good Life from Reel Life, that I believe provides a good snapshot of the American character:
poster1 patriot1 Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

The Patriot: Freedom from tyranny is a foundational feature of the American character. The rallying cry during the American Revolution was: “Give me liberty or give me death!” By standing up for their principles and beliefs, these revolutionaries helped to create the most powerful nation on earth.

poster2 gone Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

Gone With The Wind: As the Old South with its peculiar way of life burns to the ground around her, the heroine fervently believes in her ability to reshape the world in her own image. She displays a high degree of optimism that tomorrow will be a better day. It also shows how Americans are willing to fight each other, even on a battlefield, for the preservation of their beliefs and values.

poster3 citizen Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

Citizen Kane: It is an era when an oligarchy of wealthy and powerful men ran the world. America provides the perfect stage for these larger than life personalities to live out their fantasies. It shows that despite all the money in the world, happiness can sometimes remain elusive.

poster4 blood Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

There Will Be Blood: It depicts an American ethos of hard work and rugged individualism in a country that provides ample opportunity for anyone to pursue the American Dream. It also marks the beginning of America’s love affair with Big Oil and the energy industry.

poster5 grapes Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

The Grapes of Wrath: As families journey to California seeking a better life during the Great Depression, they find themselves being exploited as a cheap source of labor. The workers decide to fight back by forming a union and demanding higher wages. It is also an era when Americans were losing their homes due to foreclosure and had to find the will and wherewithal to start over.

poster6 missis Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

Mississippi Burning: When three civil rights workers are murdered during the Civil Rights Movement, the norm was for the local authorities in the South to look the other way. It highlights a time when the nation was coming to grips with the specter of racial injustice and taking a hard line against discrimination.

poster7 godfa Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

The Godfather: America has a long history of battling corruption and organized crime. It reveals how certain members of society will always try to circumvent the system to get rich quick. It shines a spotlight on the inequitable distribution of wealth in society that may lead some people to consider criminal activity as an option.

poster8 anygiven Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

Any Given Sunday: Watching sports is America’s favorite pastime and represent the competitive spirit of Americans. Football is a sport that pits the best athletes against each other, just like the gladiators of yore.

poster9 wallst Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

Wall Street: It is a coming of age film about a young man trying to find his moral compass in the face of great temptation. Wall Street is the domain of risk-takers, who believe that “greed is good.” It is a place of leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers. It is a place where easy money is made without producing a tangible product that provides a real benefit to society at large.

poster10 erin Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

Erin Brokovich: A single mother helps a small town bring down a power company for polluting its water supply. It demonstrates how Americans like to root for the underdog and act courageously in the face of injustice. It also displays one of America’s greatest strengths – its spirit of volunteerism.


storytelling4 StorytellingA philosopher is a lover of wisdom, who also has a deep understanding and broad perspective on life. Our continual quest for knowledge and meaning have helped to advance civilization. This collective wisdom is what shapes our culture and keeps us evolving as a species. Here are some great articles on the topic of Storytelling:

The Problem with Processed Storytelling | The New Yorker
As we moderns become more isolated—more occupied with our virtual lives, more distracted by a greater flow of information and stimulation—the emotional comfort food that the rules provide and the illusion of human connection by way of stories become all the more alluring. And that’s why, in the age of the Internet, the success of TV series is self-perpetuating: the plethora of online discussion they spark drives viewers further into online isolation and makes them all the hungrier for contact with characters and their stories

Marco Tempest: A magical tale (with augmented reality) | TED Video
Marco Tempest spins a beautiful story of what magic is, how it entertains us and how it highlights our humanity — all while working extraordinary illusions with his hands and an augmented reality machine. A magician and illusionist for the 21st century, Marco Tempest blends cutting-edge technology with the flair and showmanship of Houdini

How Twitter Is Reshaping The Future Of Storytelling | Co.Exist 
Every five days, a billion tiny stories are generated by people around the world. Those messages aren’t just being lost in the ether, like the imaginary output of monkeys randomly attempting to produce the works of Shakespeare. Instead, the tweets are being archived by the Library of Congress as part of the organization’s mission to tell the story of America. The archive now includes 170 billion posts and counting

Power Your Business Storytelling By Creating a Content Brand
There’s a big difference between creating branded content and building a content brand. Branded content is egocentric brand marketing. Developing a content brand takes an audience-first approach to business storytelling that builds a loyal audience. Deloitte Debates is branded content (notice how the brand is in the title of the content). Will it Blend? is a content brand (see how there’s no mention of the Blendtec brand in the title?)

Everything you need to know about storytelling, in 5 minutes …
Sometimes I speak off the top of my head at this sort of thing, but this time I actually wrote out some thoughts, so I thought I’d post them in the spirit of Austin Kleon’s “show your work” idea. If you do any kind of storytelling for a living, these are probably basic ideas, but maybe not