The Best of World Builders ('23 Edition)

10 free guides to make you a better storyteller heading into 2024

Benjamin Franklin has a great quote, “Lost time is never found again.”

Your time is valuable, and I’m so grateful you spent a chunk of it leveling up your storytelling skills with me in 2023. Going into the new year, I want to make sure you’re aware of a few initiatives:

  • On Feb 5th, I’m launching Digital Storytelling: a limited-time course that trains you on the fundamentals and advanced techniques for short-form storytelling on the internet—Write devilishly good story-based hooks, leverage your 3 key Personal Stories (even if you hate talking about yourself), and attract the right audience for you. Verify your interest by clicking here.

  • Big things are coming the rest of the year. From opportunities to hone your stories as part of a curated group to course partnerships to Q&As with published authors (as well as other storytellers), I’m pumped for what we’re launching this year. Keep an eye out.

To wrap up the year, I dug through the 50+ letters I published and picked out the 10 best to help you become a better storyteller (judged by popularity, vibes, and reader engagement).

Hope you enjoy:

People better understand concepts, situations, and ideas in groups of three. Why? Because the number three is the smallest number of elements needed to create a pattern.

In the early 1950s, Kurt Vonnegut submitted his thesis paper to the University of Chicago’s Department of Anthropology. His idea? That the vast majority of all stories in western culture come down to just eight shapes. Brilliant stuff from a brilliant man.

Aristotle’s Rhetoric is far more than just ethos, pathos, logos. It includes an excellent breakdown of narrative structure that many of today’s storytelling models are based on.

Video games tell some of the best stories. And it largely comes down to three things: Clear progress, setting as a character, and story engines.

Write the end first. That way you know what you need to achieve, what you need to mention, and what matters throughout your story. The end drives the beginning and middle, not the other way around.

The creators of South Park say, “If the words ‘and then’ belong between those beats… you got something pretty boring. What should happen between every beat you’ve written down is the words ‘therefore’ or ‘but.’” Because stories are about causation, not continuation.

If you understand open loops, you can write hooks, keep readers engaged, and control the pace of your story. They’re the ultimate tool for any kind of storyteller.

Robert McKee says, “A protagonist in a story can only be as intellectually fascinating and emotionally compelling as the forces of antagonism make them.” The Joker makes Batman, not the other way around.

Christopher Nolan uses “Open Endings” in almost every movie. The main plot is wrapped up. We know how the story ends. But you get the sense that the broader story could continue. The world didn’t stop existing.

The most powerful yet flexible storytelling structure I’ve found. My personal favorite letter from the year.

Thank you for taking some of your valuable time to read this letter. I appreciate it more than you know. Have an awesome New Year.


Nathan’s Picks

3 things I found interesting this week:


A Sentence I Wish I Wrote — Trivia

What book does this line come from?

"The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it."

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Want to go deeper on storytelling? 3 ways I can help:

1. If you want to tell better stories on the internet, verify your interest in Digital Storytelling before its Feb 5th launch. You’ll get exclusive bonuses as part of the waitlist.

2. To get ahead of the AI curve, check out 90-Minute Novel Outline. It’s a 90-minute mini-course digging into writing fiction with AI. Prompts, processes, and more. We had 180+ students in the live session and it was awesome.

3. If you’re interested in starting or taking your newsletter to the next level, check out my Newsletter Crash Course (60+ students).

Thanks for reading! Reply any time.