Houston, We Have A Narrative: Why Science Needs Story

Paperback | September 16, 2015

byRandy Olson

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 Ask a scientist about Hollywood, and you’ll probably get eye rolls. But ask someone in Hollywood about science, and they’ll see dollar signs: moviemakers know that science can be the source of great stories, with all the drama and action that blockbusters require.
 
That’s a huge mistake, says Randy Olson: Hollywood has a lot to teach scientists about how to tell a story—and, ultimately, how to do science better. With Houston, We Have a Narrative, he lays out a stunningly simple method for turning the dull into the dramatic. Drawing on his unique background, which saw him leave his job as a working scientist to launch a career as a filmmaker, Olson first diagnoses the problem: When scientists tell us about their work, they pile one moment and one detail atop another moment and another detail—a stultifying procession of “and, and, and.” What we need instead is an understanding of the basic elements of story, the narrative structures that our brains are all but hardwired to look for—which Olson boils down, brilliantly, to “And, But, Therefore,” or ABT. At a stroke, the ABT approach introduces momentum (“And”), conflict (“But”), and resolution (“Therefore”)—the fundamental building blocks of story. As Olson has shown by leading countless workshops worldwide, when scientists’ eyes are opened to ABT, the effect is staggering: suddenly, they’re not just talking about their work—they’re telling stories about it. And audiences are captivated.
 
Written with an uncommon verve and enthusiasm, and built on principles that are applicable to fields far beyond science, Houston, We Have a Narrative has the power to transform the way science is understood and appreciated, and ultimately how it’s done.

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 Ask a scientist about Hollywood, and you’ll probably get eye rolls. But ask someone in Hollywood about science, and they’ll see dollar signs: moviemakers know that science can be the source of great stories, with all the drama and action that blockbusters require.   That’s a huge mistake, says Randy Olson: Hollywood has a lot to teach...

Randy Olson was a tenured professor of marine biology at the University of New Hampshire before moving to Hollywood and entering film school at the University of Southern California. He has written and directed a number of films, including the acclaimed Flock of Dodos and he is the author of numerous successful books, including Don’t B...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:September 16, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022627084X

ISBN - 13:9780226270845

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

I Introduction
Why Science Needs Story
 
II Thesis
1 Science is stuck in a narrative world
2 ___ the humanities ought to help
3 ___ the humanities are useless for this
4 _________ Hollywood to the rescue
 
III Antithesis
5 Methods: Narrative Tools—The WSP Model
6 Methods: Word—The Dobzhansky Template
7 Methods: Sentence—The ABT Template
8 Methods: Paragraph—The Hero’s Journey
9 Results: The Narrative Spectrum
10 Results: Four Case Studies
 
IV Synthesis
11 Science needs story
12 ___ Hollywood can help
13 ___ narrative training requires a different mindset
14 _________ I recommend Story Circles
 
Appendix 1 The Narrative Tools
Appendix 2 Narrative Vocabulary
Appendix 3 Twitter “Stories”
 
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Olson argues that narrative skill is central not just to science communication but also to research reportage, preventing false positives, yawn-worthy delivery and more.”