BRUTALLY Honest Blog

How to simply turn your BORING storytelling into an ENGAGING narrative

May 24, 2023

Honestly, if you’re not reading, you’re not growing. Books are the cheapest form of knowledge and before the excuses start, anyone who says that they don’t have the time to read is only lying to themselves. It takes the average person just over eight hours (8.3 to be exact) to read a 300-page book. That's just under one-and-a-half hours per day during the week - excluding weekends! I’m dyslexic and can still manage to complete a 300-page book: cover to cover, every week. If you already read, then perfect! This shouldn't be an obstacle you have to overcome. But in this week’s blog, I am going to outline 10 books that if you read in this order, you will be able to turn your BORING storytelling into an ENGAGING narrative!

<span style="color: #f87060"> Disclaimer: I'm not making any money off punting these books. I have included a non-affiliate link at the end of the blog to the full reading list for anyone who wants to get started immediately. Happy reading! </span>


Kindra hall:
Stories that stick

Stories that stick is first on the list for a reason. This book has been the most impactful on my growth as a storyteller. Hall outlines the four parts of a successful story: Identifiable characters, significant moments, authentic emotions, and specific details. These elements allow you to create attention-grabbing and meaningful impact in the audience from the very first second. With that out of the way the audience has a way easier time engaging with your message. Which sets you on the paths to genuine transformation in the audience.

John Truby:
the anatomy of Genres

Did you know that there are 90 different sub-genres of Cinema? These stem from the core 13 genres that make up a story. My main takeaway from this book is what Truby says about George Lucas’s reinvention of cinematic storytelling. He describes it in two distinct eras: BSW and ASW (Before Star Wars and After Star Wars). Star Wars was a turning point in film history. It became the first true multi-genre story and challenged the then-status-quo of building a story around a single genre. Instead of just being a sci-fi film, Star Wars explored coming of age, adventure, love, betrayal and became a conglomerate of multiple genres. In 2023, it has become the norm for films to have multiple genres, especially in modern cinema.

Dave Trott:
One + One = Three

In this book, Trott shares his philosophy on advertising and the power of simple, creative ideas. It's a must-read for anyone interested in advertising or marketing. "1+1=3" challenges traditional notions of competition and promotes collaboration as a means to create new value. By examining the power of partnerships, offer insights into strategic thinking and the potential for synergy in various industries. But for me, this is a book about the underdog and pursuing goals. It has a wealth of truly inspiring underdog stories about those who pursued their goals with immense beliefs while adapting to changing landscapes.

Austin Kleon:
Steal like an Artist

Kleon's book is a manifesto for creativity, encouraging readers to embrace inspiration from others and find their own unique voice. This awesome little book can be read in a day with tons of really cool graphics and doodles (you can literally read it in 3 hours). Kleon makes it clear there's a good way and a bad way to steal like an Artist. Start with finding you inspires you, then find who inspire them and then find who inspires them. Once you’ve done that, look past their art and think how they came to these creative outcomes and you’ll begin to think like them. Mix all of it together and - congratulations! Now you ‘re stealing like an ARTIST! The other incredibly important message from this wonderful book is to just START creating, don't wait for conditions to be perfect because they’ll never be. You will come to find your voice in those early imperfect works as you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. This book ultimately encourages you to just put the time in and that creativity is born from time spent honing your craft.  

Malcolm Gladwell:
The Tipping Point

In this book, Gladwell explores the concept of "tipping points" and how small changes can have big impacts. It's a fascinating read for anyone interested in social psychology. He defines two key concepts: ‘Mavens’ and ‘Connectors’. A Connector is a person who goes out and communicates the idea, thus selling it and doing the marketing on behalf of the brand - whereas a maven is a person who is respected in that particular sphere. But it's important to remember that both Mavens and Connectors are equally important and intertwined. But can Mavens and Connectors be combined into a “Maven-Connector”? Yes they can be; Gordon Ramsey is a Maven-Connector, as he is both a highly respected chef and someone with a large social media influence.

David Aaker:
Creating Signature Stories

Facts tell, stories sell! This book provides a step-by-step process for crafting and telling your own signature story, helping you stand out in an ever growing and saturated market. The human brain is wired to process information presented in a story way more efficiently than just hard facts. If you compare facts to a story that has the same general content, the story will get more attention, persuade, change perceptions, be remembered, and be passed on. In an age where ‘content is king’ and attention needs to be earned,  GREAT storytelling is more important than ever. The average person is bombarded with between 8,000 and 12,000 ads per day, and people are so efficient at blocking out ads that for your message to make it through to the audience it needs to have a signature story. To create a signature story, it must be all five of these things: intriguing, authentic, involving, a narrative, and containing a strategic message.

Tom Bernardin, Leo Burnett, Mark Tutssel: Humankind

I call this book my ‘White Bible’. This book explores the power of empathy and human connection in advertising, offering a fresh perspective on how to create campaigns that resonate with people. This brilliant book on advertising helped me to understand the four steps of advertising. The main point being  that it's not about what a brand DOES: it is what a brand MEANS to people. It outlines brand image and brand identity and the crucial difference between them, and how the aim of a brand should always be brand equity - which is to get brand image and brand identity as close together as possible.

Reed Hastings:
No Rules Rules

This book provides insights into Netflix's culture and leadership principles, offering a new perspective on how to run a successful business. Reed Hastings talks about the innovative culture and management strategies of Netflix. How to foster a culture of freedom and responsibility and how it can drive business success. It contains valuable lessons for storytellers who want to challenge the norm. Although I don't completely agree with their idea of removing the term "family" from the workplace so that people know that they’re replaceable - because you should always empower your employees - it still remains a fantastic book on how to run a successful business.

Jacqueline Frost:
Cinematography for Directors

Frost's guide to cinematography is a valuable resource for filmmakers who want to improve their visual storytelling skills. This book does a great job of unpacking one of the most crucial collaborations in the filmmaking process: the relationship between the DP and the Director. Directors oftentimes have a clear vision but lack communicating that in technical terms. The book's focus is teaching directors how to talk to a DP. It's a book that doesn't take any sides, making it a great read for me because I would work with the same DP over and over. His name is Fabian Vettiger and we fight all the time, but our fights are ALWAYS productive because we have intellectual debates based on our understanding and interpretation of the script. It would be unwise to refuse the guidance from a DP, particularly if they’re a great one, but all communication needs to come from a place of mutual understanding and a common goal.

TheFilm That Changed My Life:
30 Directors on Their Epiphanies in the Dark

In this collection of essays, filmmakers share the movies that inspired them and shaped their creative vision. It's a great read for anyone who loves movies and wants to learn more about the art of filmmaking. This is an incredible book by all my favorite directors. It reaffirms to me as a creator that it's okay to steal like an artist because each one of them steals from the other's ideas. Every Oscar-winning director honors a director who inspired them. Be it Martin Scorsese or Stanley Kubrick, their profound influence on the industry will be felt and written about for years to come. It's incredibly insightful to read about the films that shaped these directors' points of view.

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next week's blog post: 

What I Learned Working With Casey Neistat