Long Story Short - by Margot Leitman


Long Story Short - by Margot Leitman

Read: 2024-01-30

Recommend: 8/10

We human beings belong to a story-telling species. Who does not like a story-telling guide that can help us tell our own stories? It is the quote from this book that led me to this book:

“Most events in life can be categorized in one of two ways: a good time, or a good story.”


Here are some text that I highlighted in the book:

  1. I can honestly say that when I started storytelling—speaking openly about my experiences—my life changed for the better. I started having sincere relationships with people right away, instead of hiding behind bravado or small talk. I’ve drawn a lot of open, like-minded folks into my life since, and I’ve tried my best to cut the phonies out.

  2. Storytelling is not stand-up comedy. You might get laughs in your story, sure, but you shouldn’t force these laughs by sneaking in set-up/punch-line style jokes. If you do that, you’ll risk sounding insincere. Let the story speak for itself, and if some laughs end up happening, think of those laughs as icing on the cake.

  3. Most events in life can be categorized in one of two ways: a good time, or a good story.

  4. Think about what people ask you about constantly. What aspect of your life are you asked about the most?

  5. It wasn’t being a mom that was interesting; it was my personal and vulnerable perspective on being a mom that was interesting.

  6. Here’s a quick thing you can do to see some of the stories already within you. Fill in this blank with true statements until you run out. I AM ____.

  7. After you’ve exhausted all your I am statements, jot down a few notes next to the ones that have a corresponding anecdote. Then move on to part two: I WAS ____

  8. The final part of the exercise is this: ____ IS THE STORY OF MY LIFE.

  9. Some of the most successful artists out there have found one recurring theme and told variations of that story over and over, to great success. Larry David has been the guy who says the one thing you’re not supposed to say—via the characters George (based on himself) on Seinfeld and Larry on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Beyoncé sings about being a strong, independent woman in various ways. Sarah Vowell writes from the standpoint of a nerdy history buff in The Wordy Shipmates, Unfamiliar Fishes, and Assassination Vacation. Georgia O’Keeffe painted enough variations of blossoms to fill entire museum exhibitions.

  10. Write down a list of ten quirks about yourself.

  11. In order to create more stories, you have to be open to new experiences.

  12. Be smart about your characters. Change names, identifying characteristics, and gender. But your story should never just be about what an asshole your college boyfriend was. We’ve all behaved less than perfectly many times in our lives. You wouldn’t want someone telling a story about what a jerk you once were, right? This would burn even more if you weren’t there to defend yourself. Instead of telling the story of what an asshole your college boyfriend was, tell the story of what a fool you were for staying with him. Remember, you are the star of your own story.

  13. We root for underdogs, plain and simple. Be an underdog in your story.


    • Keep it true.
    • Change names and identifying characteristics of other people in your story if you feel it’s necessary.
    • Make sure your story has a universal theme that is relatable, not self-indulgent or overly personal.
    • Have multiple points of entry.
    • Don’t be heavy-handed with your message. Let the story speak for itself.
    • If you’re not “over it,” don’t tell it.
    • Tell us what you were thinking at the time of your story. Reveal your inner monologue, from A to Z.
    • Cut the fat when introducing external characters. Use composite characters and nickname them when you can.
    • Make sure we root for you. Be an underdog.
    • Show us your flaws and use them to your advantage when telling your story.
    • If there are full-circle connections within your story, be sure to use them. But don’t force a connection.
    • Be the star of your story.
    • Add nostalgia (songs, television shows, fashion styles from the time of the story).
    • Keep us on our toes by incorporating the unexpected.
    • Keep it conversational, not presentational. Cut out anything you wouldn’t say to a group of your friends. You want your story to sound natural.
    • Make sure you aren’t just listing things, going on a rant, or making a political speech. Make sure you get to the “meat” of the story.
    • If you care, we care. Passion will take you far. Emotionally respond to the tale you are recounting, but don’t yell at us!