Connected Creativity

Or, House of Cards meets The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Hey — Nathan here.

50,000 World Builders 🤯

I worried I was the only one nerdy enough to care about storytelling. Turns out that worry, like most worries, was simply in my own head. Appreciate you.

Today’s hook comes from a classic movie. Hit me back with your best guess:

“I believe in America. America has made my fortune.”

Last newsletter’s answer: Pride and Prejudice

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Yellowstone, the massive hit TV show by writer Taylor Sheridan, combines elements of classic American westerns, medieval kingdom dramas, and political thrillers.

The Dutton family rules their fiefdom in the Montana countryside — the largest ranch in the United States. It’s been in the family for seven generations. But internal drama threatens to tear the Duttons apart. The neighboring Native Americans might cause problems. And, of course, they venture into politics.

It’s like smashing together House of Cards, Medici, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly into one show. It’s glorious.

This is how Taylor Sheridan turns out hit after hit. He takes two (or more) unrelated ideas and blends them into one. The result? An original story.

Let’s say you want to tell the story of a mob boss stripped of his dignity by the new generation of gangsters. He’s determined to prove himself, no matter the cost.

Where do you expect him to live? New York or Boston.

Yawn. It’s expected, and you’re competing with The Godfather and The Departed. Tough competition.

Instead, Sheridan smacks that old, beat-up mobster in the middle of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

That’s the plot of Tulsa King, his most recent hit. It’s mob movie meets Western.

What makes combining ideas like this such an effective storytelling technique?

Blending two common ideas makes an uncommon idea. It adds another, unexpected layer to your story. More drama, more intrigue, more possibilities. Your audience hasn’t seen much like it.

So next time you’re thinking through a story, ask yourself:

What’s an unrelated idea you could bring to the story? What unexpected connection can you make?

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

Steve Jobs

I wrote about how Morgan Housel uses this tactic to persuade, but Sheridan proves it’s equally effective to entertain.

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Digital Storytelling of the Week

A new feature where I include an example of exceptional digital storytelling each week.

What I loved:

  • The hook — a bold, declarative statement followed by numbers to back it up; plus, he leaned into the underdog angle (readers love this)

  • Joe’s use of ‘But’ and ‘So’ to move the story along

  • Sometimes images are overdone, but the ones Joe included add either info or entertainment to the story

Joe writes Huddle Up, a great sports business newsletter.

Should I make this section a weekly feature?

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A message from... Me!

The interest in this tweet blew me away...

In my experience, there are two ways to get good at storytelling:

  1. Study the greats (what this newsletter is for)

  2. Practice, practice, practice

I do a lot of practice through StoryWork.

And so many of you liked, commented, and sent me DMs about the practice I decided to turn it into a guided course for you.

Check it out:

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Nathan’s Picks

📚 One of you asked for books I recommend to improve your storytelling. I recommend these two more than any others:

📜 How to Write Essays That Spread, an awesome read about writing for the internet.

🏋️‍♂️ A helpful list of 79 tasks your virtual assistant can help with.

  • I hired a VA a few weeks ago and found this list incredibly helpful. If you’re interested in a VA, let me know and I can refer you to a quality company (I also had no idea where to look until recently).

📹 An exceptional video on The Soul of Good Character Design.

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Want to learn more? Three ways I can help:

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