“When it comes to uniting people around a common story, fiction actually enjoys three inherent advantages over the truth. First, whereas the truth is universal, fictions tend to be local. Consequently if we want to distinguish our tribe from foreigners, a fictional story will serve as a far better identity marker than a true story…
…The second huge advantage of fiction over truth has to do with the handicap principle, which says that reliable signals must be costly to the signaler. Otherwise, they can easily be faked by cheaters…
…Third, and most important, the truth is often painful and disturbing. Hence if you stick to unalloyed reality, few people will follow you.”
—Yuval Noah Harari, “Why Fiction Trumps Truth.” The New York Times. May 24, 2019.
“Opera is, in fact, a quite close cousin to video gaming or porn, in that the storytelling really is not much more than an excuse for a bunch of insanely gifted singers to belt out a succession of heart-rending crowd-pleaser torch songs. Ditto, to some extent, Shakespeare – let’s face it, you’re not at a production of Lear or Othello or Macbeth to see how the story comes out. You’re in it for the visceral thrill of the language, the delivery of soliloquies and declamations, the soaring, gut-wrenching sight of those time-worn characters getting wrung out and destroyed in iambic pentameter glory. But no-one talks about gratuitous chunks of metered verse, or gratuitous extended melodic range, because to do so would force a reassessment of what’s really going on. You’d get short shrift if, like me, you bellyached about all the gratuitous singing and dancing in a Bollywood movie – that’s part of the conventions of the form, you’d be told. You have to tune up, you have to take a more culturally sophisticated approach to these things.
Damn straight, we do.
All of us.”
—Richard K. Morgan, “Gratuities at Your Discretion.” RichardKMorgan.com. April 5, 2016.
Barbara Minto‘s “The Minto Pyramid Principle” is a how-to guide for writing concise reports in a management consulting firm that has been around for years. I wrote a one sheet summary of her book over a decade ago that I still sometimes find to be a useful aid for writing. While it might be overkill for most writing we do, it is still a useful reference.
First Things First, Subject/Predicate
- What is the subject you are writing about?
- What is the question you are answering in the reader’s mind about the subject?
- What is the answer?
Make It a Story
- What is a situation where the Subject/Predicate can be illustrated?
- What problems complicate the situation?
- Do the question and answer still follow?
Find The Key Line or Take-Away
- What new question is raised by the answer?
- Will you answer it, inductively or deductively?
- If you answer inductively, what is your plural noun?
- Dramatize the main idea using imagery.
- Imagine a doer – for analysis and writing.
- List all the points you want to make, then find relationships.
- Ideas at any level must always be summaries of the ideas below.
- Ideas in each grouping must always be the same kind of idea.
- Ideas in each grouping must always be logically ordered.
- Always try top down first.
- Use the Situation for thinking through the introduction.
- Don’t omit to think through the introduction.
- Always put historical chronology in the introduction.
- Limit the introduction to what the reader will agree is true.
- Be sure to support all key line points.
- What is the problem?
- Where does it lie?
- Why does it exist?
- What could we do about it?
- What should we do about it?
- Introductions are meant to remind not inform.
- They should contain the three story elements.
- Length of introduction depends on reader and subject.
- Never use only one element for a heading.
- Show parallel ideas in parallel form.
- Limit to the essence of thought.
- Don’t regard headings as part of the text
- Introduce each group of headings.
- Don’t overdo.
- Question the order in a grouping – time, structure, or ranking.
- Question source(s) used in the problem solving process.
- Question the summary statement.
- Question your expression.
Structures for Evaluation
- Financial structure – consider strictly financial issues.
- Task structure – focus on how work gets done.
- Activity structure – focus on what needs to happen to create problem.
- Choice structure – bifurcate choices.
- Sequential structure – combination choice and activity structure.