Storyworthy Dissection part 1

on storytelling

The ultimate skill is storytelling. Application ranges wide. But for me, the interest in storytelling has more to do with my hobby of writing fiction. Even if you don't have an interest in writing fiction, following Matthew Dicks' homework for life could unleash a whole new level of meaning for your life.

My goal is to cover the different aspects of storytelling this summer (in between various projects) so that I can start to write fiction more regularly in the fall.

Two concepts that great stories have: change + what Matthew Dicks' calls a five second moment.


Every compelling story has to have a transformation of the protagonist. I recently wrote for practice a short story where the protagonist is an unprincipled, privileged woman who is having several run-ins with bad luck. At the end, she changes her environment.

Did I get it right?

Definitely not. I re-read the story with the focus on how the protagonist changed. She didn't. In terms of character development or arc, there practically was none.

No matter what your religion or lack thereof, meaning in storytelling comes from change in a person. Whether it be in her values, outlook, or actions.

One of my inspirations for writing the piece came from the script of Miss Sloane. The author is actually an ex-lawyer whose first script went to film. I tried to read his other work, but couldn't find any!

Miss Sloane was originally a story of a morally bankrupt lobbyist and her interactions with political interest groups in Washington DC. I initially thought that the story was very compelling, because you see a woman with a questionable moral compass follow a path that would suggest she has a conscience.

It wasn't until I did some internet searching on the author that he revealed the director worked on the script with him to develop it some more. Pretty standard I assumed, but he said specifically it was that the main character had to feel some kind of remorse for her actions towards the end of the story.

The director is forcing a change in the protagonist, because he intuitively knows that this change must be present in order for the story to be valuable. In order for his movie to make it.

The overall box office was a slump for Miss Sloane, but in terms of the story arc and character development, it has always been a reminder to me on how great stories are born.

Five Second Moment

Every great story ever told is essentially about a five-second moment in the life of a human being, and the purpose of the story is to bring that moment to the greatest clarity possible. - Matthew Dicks, Storyworthy

There has to be a realization, or the five second moment, in the story that is buried in the larger theatrics of the story. That five second moment is typically an eye opening experience for the protagonist. Which ultimately, as you may have guessed, needs to lead to a change in her.

Because it is so critical to have the five second moment, Dicks often suggests that you identify it earlier in the story crafting process. That way, you can begin the story with the opposite of that realization. If you start the story out with the opposite, then it will naturally trend towards the change, or arc, that the compelling story needs.

In my own writing journey, I have been trying to identify the five second moments more. And with anything, if I am seeking something very specifically, I tend to find it. Slowly my days have changed with the search of these small five second moments.

So I will be searching for these moments more and documenting them. I can then start with the opposite in the beginning and transcend a change. Once I get a little bit more practice in this, I'll start to cover other details and techniques Dicks suggest, including starting a story in motion.

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