Business Storytelling Glossary (The BSG)

The BSG lists the concepts, ideas and definitions I use in my workIt’s ad-hoc and personal, so your mileage may vary. I link to recommended books where appropriate. If you buy them I may get a small kickback, but I promise to spend it wantonly.

To dig deeper into my world, check out Story.Business.


Adaptive Unconscious
The hidden and unknowable mental processes that mould our attention and decision-making. Yes, your reality is really just your adaptive unconscious telling you a story. Mine too. See Strangers to Ourselves by Timothy D. Wilson.

The adaptive unconscious is thus more than just a gatekeeper, deciding what information to admit to consciousness. It is also a spin doctor that interprets information outside of awareness. One of the most important judgments we make is about the motives, intentions, and dispositions of other people, and it is to our advantage to make these judgments quickly.

If you think that this doesn’t apply to business, you are in the wrong place. Seriously.

Agile Storytelling
Fools and perfectionists wait until everything is complete before they risk revealing themselves (and it never is). StoryHackers build their mythology piece by published piece.

A-Plot/B-Plot etc
Workaday dramas mix plotlines to keep things moving, deeper stories use them to expose different sides of a theme. B-Plots are generally of secondary importance … and often used for romance or comic relief.

A major section of a longer story. Dogma abounds on this, but it rarely concerns us in business storytelling. The 3-Act structure is popular in Hollywood, but John Yorke (Into the Woods) argues that the Shakespearean 5-Act structure is a more powerful form. In story structure – as in life – context is everything.

It’s more useful to think about acts as divided by critical turning points. At the end of Back to the Future‘s first act, Marty travels back in time. That’s a critical turning point because it can’t be undone.

The repetition of the beginning sounds of words. E.g. Lois Lane. This is a simple and powerful technique for improving the fluency of your writing/storytelling.

The part of your brain responsible for emotional processing (esp. fear and anger), fast decision making and memory.

Comparing similar aspects of different objects. E.g. my analogy of business to a forest.

The invisible network of stories, values and associations through which we experience our ’reality’. This is where the magic happens.

The opposite of something. E.g. Hot is the antonym of cold.

The progression or journey a character makes through the story. E.G. In Groundhog Day, Phil the Weatherman learns to care about others. That’s his arc.

Character arcs are much venerated, but exceptions abound. Bill and Ted – fantastically – never learn anything. Jack Reacher never changes. And we all know about Homer

Common patterns or characters that appear in stories. Jung, for example, identified life events (birth, death, separation from parents, initiation, marriage, the union of opposites) and characters (great mother, father, child, devil, god, wise old man, wise old woman, the trickster, the hero etc). See Wikipedia.

A foundation of emotion, Arousal is measured on a scale of calm to jittery. It is continually and unconsciously monitored through the process of Introception. See Lisa Feldman Barrett’s amazing book, How Emotions Are Made.

Without attention, there can be no communication, BUT attention is far from sufficient. It’s also a trap. See also: Novelty.

There are two ways to think about an audience. One is to say whatever the hell you want and hope it attracts a tribe. The other is to study the people you seek to serve and create something for them.

Most businesses try the former, but you can probably guess which works better.

One of Robert Cialdini’s seven principles of Influence. Put simply, we are generally raised to respect and obey authority figures. (I have tried to teach my kids to challenge this, but they never listen to me.)


Back Story
The story we tell about ourselves (explicitly AND implicitly) that draws a prospect into our world, and allows them to trust our promise.

A word I coined to describe the fatuousness of most marketing. Blah, bloody blah.

Blind-Spot Test
The simplest way to see that reality is built in the brain. Take the test.

Brain (The story-telling machine)
In his book, The Brain, neuroscientist, David Eagleman says:

“… the brain has no access to the world outside. Sealed within the dark, silent chamber of your skull, your brain has never directly experienced the external world, and it never will… Everything you experience – every sight, sound, smell – rather than being a direct experience, is an electrochemical rendition in a dark theatre.”

And this:

… our reality is ultimately built in the dark, in a foreign language of electrochemical signals. The activity churning across the vast neural networks gets turned into your story of this, your private experience of the world: the feeling of this book in your hands, the light in the room, the smell of roses, the sound of others speaking.

Brand Storytelling
When brands use stories to elicit an emotional connection to their company, product or service (at least, when it’s done well).

The creation of value that others are prepared to pay for.

The second most powerful three letters in storytelling. The word demands focus because something is about to change …

  • You did well in the interview, but …
  • The figures are in, but …
  • I love you, but …


My favourite technique – used to add gravitas, meaning and resonance to your story. See also: Call Forwards.

Layering in the elements that will later trigger callbacks. See also: Callbacks; Foreshadowing.

This is what every story is about. To put it another way, if nothing happens in your story/press release/whatever … nothing happens in the brains of the people unlucky enough to read it.

Chaos (Unknown World)
In his book, Maps of Meaning, Jordan Peterson illustrates how humans constantly try to move from the What Is (Unbearable Present) through the Chaos/Unknown and towards the What Should Be (Ideal Future). The chaos of the unknown world is analogous to the Magical World in The Hero’s Journey.  See also: Structural Tension.

The first requirement of effective business storytelling. If we want to create emotion and action, our story has to be about someone. (Not a company, business, organisation etc.) Ref. Daniel Kahneman’s explanation of his use of System 1 and 2, in Thinking, Fast and SlowSee also: Conflict and Consequence.

A word or phrase that has lost its original power or meaning through excessive repetition. See George Orwell’s, Politics and the English Language for a fantastic evisceration of cliches (or Dying Metaphors).

The emotional peak of a story.

Cold Open
The teaser scene/sequence before the titles of a TV programme.

Any story that ends happily (in the classical definition). As opposed to Tragedy.

One of Robert Cialdini’s seven principles of Influence. Once we’ve made a commitment to something – especially in public – we are more likely to go through with it. Equally, we are more likely to act in accordance with the internal image we hold of ourselves.

The core idea as expressed in the story. This is munged in with premise, meaning, theme and other words that overlap this area. What’s your story about? What does it need to communicate?

The second requirement of effective business storytelling. For a character to engage us, they need to have a problem worth caring about. This can be physical, mental, social or emotional. See also: Character and Consequence.

The third requirement of effective (business storytelling). A character with only a conflict is just a hook. In a true story, the conflict resolves (for good or ill). See also: Conflict and Character.

Conversion Copywriting
Copy that’s engineered to sell RIGHT NOW. Occasionally sublime, but often high-pressure, tactic-driven and anxiety-inducing. See also: Strategic Copywriting.

Core Messages
The foundational messages about a brand, business or founders that are woven through the Storyverse. Sort these before you start writing.

Core Value Proposition
The strategic summation of the value you deliver for your customers. Note: Value is entirely subjective and can be financial, emotional, social etc.

Your mind may jump to James Bond and the seconds ticking down on the bomb … but clocks can be way more subtle. When Marty travels back in time (Back To The Future), he has a few short days until lightning hits the (actual) clock. This deadline gives the story its urgency.

Two lines that end with a pair of rhyming words. For example:

Nick told a story
That did him no glory.

Cut Scenes
The non-interactive exposition scenes in a video games. Often dull. Occasionally sublime.


The section of the story that comes after the climax. I always think of this as the part in the A-Team where they clear up any loose ends, and tell a lame joke about what just happened. Roll credits.

Conversation between characters. Rarely used in business, and consequently powerful. And that power, by the way, is rarely about the surface meaning of the words being said. It’s in the subtext.

Created through conflict. Without drama, there is no attention. Hint: Most business communication contains no drama. Which is why it sucks.

The versions of your content that aren’t ready. Note Hemmingway’s legendary advice:

“Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. . . I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. … The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he has read but something that has happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing.”

Note: Hemmingway is revered, but I’ve never managed to finish any of his books.


Easy Button
This week’s must use tactic that works for everyone regardless of product, market or context.

In a business, we need our stories to embody the challenges, contexts and feelings of our audience. From a recent conversation with a mate … “No one wants to get fit. They want to look good naked.”

Find the reason behind the reason, and keep going until you hit something real.

Persuasion by Character – from Aristotle.  When we tell a story of standing, substance and authority, we are leveraging the second of Aristotle’s three forms of rhetoric – Ethos. This is the force I used to build (and sell) my first business, and the force I’m using at this very moment. Ethos can magnify the value of everything you say and do … or it can tear it down.

This is why the Origin Story is so important.

If you want to get anywhere – with your story or your business – you need to execute consistently. That’s it. (Coincidentally, Execution was also the title of my first thriller. I take my own medicine.)

Explode the Moment
My friend Sally – a creative writing lecturer – taught me this wonderfully evocative phrase. It means, slowing down time to focus on one salient moment.

Background context that supports or explains the story. In traditional storytelling, exposition is considered a necessary evil … but when we are worldbuilding, it can be another layer of storytelling.


A simplified story that illustrates fundamental truths. My fav business fable is Wink and Grow Rich. No, that’s not a typo. (Well well well 😉.)

Fairy tale/story
You know what this is and you may have a favourite … mine was Jack the Giant Killer. Specifically, the part where the giant slices his belly open. Perhaps you had to be there.

A device used to fill in backstory. Use with caution … flashbacks kick momentum in the crotch.

The ease at which the audience can consume your story is hugely important. The average reading age online is 13 years or less. (Note: As Nassim Taleb reminds us, averages can be worse than useless. “Never cross a river that is on average 4 feet deep.”) See also: Phonaesthetics.

Hinting at something that’s coming. We see this most commonly in TV detective drama. The ‘twist’ ending only works if you’ve already met the perp in a minor role. My wife and I enjoy playing spot-the-unnecessary-minor-character.

Foreshadowing is typified by the famous Chekhov quote:

“If there’s a gun on the wall in act one, scene one, you must fire the gun by act three, scene two. If you fire a gun in act three, scene two, you must see the gun on the wall in act one, scene one.” — Anton Chekhov

Functional Fiction
My description for the ‘story’ our brains construct to help us make sense of the world around us. Not real, but real enough most of the time.


The consistent conventions, themes and stereotypes around certain types of stories. Example genres include Thrillers, Detective stories, Sci-fi, Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy, Cozy Mystery, Horror and so on. The Twilight Saga successfully mixed Young Adult with Horror/Fantasy, and created a new sub-genre.

The key thing to understand is that genre’s imply their own rules and conventions. In thrillers, bullets aren’t fatal. In horror stories, it somehow makes sense to confront the axe-wielding maniac. In Romantic comedies, the leads are allowed to be willfully blind. Etc.

According to some we evolved speech in order to gossip (tell stories) about our fellow humans. See The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr.

Gravitational Selling
Using the principles of brand and storytelling to gently attract the best prospects toward you. (As opposed to Pressure Selling. E.g. fear, one-time offers, psychological tactics etc.)

Grey ethics. You know what I mean.


Hero’s Journey
The influential story arc was first described by Joseph Cambell in his 1949 book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. The structure was popularised in the book The Writer’s Journey, which credited it for the success of Star Wars. Naturally, Hollywood sat up and took notice.

Campbell’s original structure had 17 stages – which is rarely what you’ll find on the internet. These are:

1. The Call to Adventure
2. Refusal of the Call
3. Supernatural Aid
4. The Crossing Of The First Threshold
5. The Belly of the Whale
6. The Road Of Trials
7. The Meeting With The Goddess
8. Woman As Temptress
9. Atonement with the Parent
10. Apotheosis
11. The Ultimate Boon
12. Refusal of The Return
13. The Magic Flight
14. Rescue From Without
15. The Crossing of The Return Threshold
16. Master Of Two Worlds
17. Freedom To Live

We use a version of the Hero’s Journey in the Tell Your Story course. Here’s my simple summary:

Our hero lives happily in the ordinary world until something changes that throws her life off balance and calls her to adventure (often against her will).

With the help of a mentor, she crosses the threshold into a magical (unknown) world and contends with the forces of chaos and darkness. The experience challenges and changes her enough to pass a final ordeal and claim the treasure.

Finally, she returns to the ordinary world to share the bounty she has won.

And here’s what Campbell himself said about it:

The Hero’s Journey is fundamentally internal, a journey to depths in which dark resistances are overcome and long-forgotten powers resurrect to be made available to the transfiguration of the world; the perilous journey is not intended to conquer but to reconquer discovery, but rediscovery. The hero is a symbol of that divine and redemptive image that is hidden within each of us and that is just waiting to be found and brought back to life “.

Joseph Campbell
Note: Despite what the internet may tell you, there is no single way to think about story structure or development. Not everything is Hero’s Journey.


A mental shortcut that allows humans to substitute a hard question with an easier one. For example, ‘can I trust this person?’ is often substituted with ‘Do I like this person?’

In general, heuristics serve us well, but as Kahneman and Tversky demonstrated, they are subject to predictable error in certain circumstances.

The line, conflict or idea that pulls the audience into a story. Here’s an example from SMB’s email onboarding sequence:

In 2003, I sent an email that almost sank my business…

Hopeless Fraud
What do you know. It doesn’t ever deliver (except for the people who sell it). See also: Easy Button.


Ideal Future
In his book, Maps of Meaning, Jordan Peterson illustrates how humans constantly try to move from the What Is (Unbearable Present) through the Chaos/Unknown and towards the What Should Be (Ideal Future). See also: Structural Tension.

Our brains are storytelling machines, but they’re built that way in the service of survival. We constantly seek to understand the implications of what’s going on around us, so we know what to do.

Worth a moment to highlight Robert Cialdini‘s seminal book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The six principles are Reciprocation, Commitment/Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity. Get an overview in 12 minutes.

Also worth noting that Cialdini’s follow-up, Pre-Suasion, introduced the seventh principle, the Privileged Moment.

This process is the continual unconscious checking of our bodies for Valence (Pleasant to Unpleasant scale) and Arousal (calm to jittery scale). See Lisa Feldman Barrett’s amazing book, How Emotions Are Made.

When the surface appearance is opposite (or at least different) from reality. In dramatic irony, it is common for the audience to know something that the characters in the story do not. For example, our knowledge that Peter Parker is Spider-Man adds a frisson when we watch him interact with oblivious friends, family and enemies.


Placing two things next to each other. If they contrast, you generate tension.


Kahneman, Daniel
One of the fathers of Behavioural Economics (with Amos Tversky). The only psychologist to ever win the Nobel Prize for Economics. Author of Thinking, Fast and Slow. Brilliant book.

Kaine, Jon
The protagonist in my thriller series.


In business storytelling, this may be the Leader Legend, Origin or Founding Story/Stories. These are the foundation of the Storyverse.

One of Robert Cialdini’s seven principles of Influence. If we like someone we are more likely to be influenced by them. This could be filed under the heading of Stating the Bleeding Obvious, except that – as with many of our systematic biases – knowing about it is no defence.

Cialdini lists several ways in which liking can be engineered, including similarity (people like us), compliments, contact, and cooperation. It also helps if you’re good looking. Damn.

Persuasion by logic – from Aristotle’s Poetics – the classic work on rhetoric. The least effective way to convince anybody of anything. See also: Ethos and Pathos.


Why your work matters. (Here’s mine.)

Stories are easier to remember. My guess is that you already know that intuitively, but you might be surprised by how much. What do you think? Twice as memorable? Three times?

I’ve seen estimates as high as 22x more memorable, but prefer to work with results I can verify. In the epilogue of Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath describe a Stanford Class that demonstrates a 1,200% increase in recall when stories are used. That’s good enough for me.

A description of one thing by way of another. Often confused with Simile, especially by me. Here’s a fav example from The Overstory by Richard Powers.

Each hug was a small, soft prison.

See my 3-step process for creating Business Metaphors That Cut Though.

A technique or aid for memorisation. In the UK, we memorise the colours of the rainbow with the mnemonic Roy. G. Biv, or the story sentence, ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’. These are both easier to remember than the actual order of the colours:

Red > Orange > Yellow > Green > Blue > Indigo > Violet

Mnemonic systems allow the memorisation of huge amounts of information. These include the Peg System (where numbers take the form of interacting images) … or the Loci System, which hijacks our innate recall of three-dimensional space. (The fictional apotheosis of this system may be Hannibal Lecter‘s memory palace, where he wanders through his imagination until he comes across Clarice Starling’s mobile number. Brrrrr 🥩🍷.)

In business storytelling, this is an interlinked set of tales and ideas around the business, brand, product or service. The multitude of tales and treatments provide a multitude of entry points for prospects, customers and sharers. See also: Storyverse and World-Building.


In business storytelling, the narrative is an overriding arc that may be comprised of many stories, ideas and elements. See also: Arc.

The person who narrates the story (duh)!

NDP Business
No discernable personality. We cannot pity these grey, lifeless businesses, but we feel for the poor folk who work in or with them.

A shortened story of approx 20k to 40k words. My first attempt at fiction was a novella.

Humans are instinctively wired to pay attention to new, strange or anomalous information. This is how ALL learning begins, making novelty a powerful (and often abused) attention hack.


The proposal we make to our prospects. See also: Story Sum.

Order (Known World)
The opposite of chaos. Stable, but dead in terms of growth or drama. See also: The Hero’s Journey, the Unbearable PresentStructural Tension.

Origin Story
The seed story that explains the business, brand, product or service. See my origin story here.

When one word or phrase contradicts another. Examples include Act NaturalControlled Chaos and (arguably) Free Love. Actually … hold on a minute … can you feel how these particular examples are losing their power. Orwell hated that kind of laziness. See also: Cliche.


Simple lessons that are taught through stories. Having a Methodist Minister as a Dad meant that I grew up with these … and my podcast is not far from that basic format.

Content that affects our perception or experience of a story despite not being part of it. Examples might include book blurbs, reviews, film posters, other works by the creator and so on.

Persuasion by emotion – from Aristotle’s Poetics – the classic work on rhetoric. See also: Ethos and LogosIn his bestseller, Descartes Error, the scientist Antonio Damasio writes about patients who couldn’t feel. Robbed of emotion by brain injury, these poor people lost their ability to make decisions at all!

The study of why certain words or syllables are pleasing to the ear (euphonious) while others are displeasing (cacophonous). Tolkien was a fan and you can hear it in the music of his names. Rivendell, Galadriel and Lothlórien flow from the tongue, whereas Uruk Hai or Nazgûl feel harder and uglier. See also: Fluency.

Plot (versus story)
There are a hundred different (and contradictory) definitions of plot, so I’ll just use the most useful way to think about it.

If story is the effect that happens in our audiences’ brain, plot is the method and machinery that creates this effect. In a good story, this machinery is hidden, like the rocks beneath the rapids or the secret pocket in the magician’s sleeve. Plotting is the real work of storytellers who sweat over their craft; selection, deselection; focus; removing friction. Almost all our work is plotting.

The core idea of a story, arc or mythology. For example, the premise of my Jon Kaine thrillers is brain versus muscle.

Pressure Selling
The use of aggressive/passive aggressive tactics to pressure customers into buying. See also: Gravitational Sales.

Privileged Moment
The seventh of  Robert Cialdini’s influence principles, introduced in his book Pre-Suasion. The privileged moment is a key opportunity for the persuader to frame the message, just before it is delivered.

Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal “pre”-suasion. In other words, to change minds a pre-suader must also change states of mind.

In his book, The Art of Fiction, John Gardener describes profluence as the requirement of a story to flow forward in a series of connected events. (The word is derived from Latin prōfluentia, ‘to flow forth’.) Here is Gardener:

“a story contains profluence, a requirement best satisfied by a sequence of causally related events, a sequence that can end in only one of two ways: in resolution … or in logical exhaustion”

See also: Plot.

Promise/Promise of the Premise
The implicit promise that a storyteller makes to their audience. Commercially speaking, this might be the trailer or the movie poster. My fav example was highlighted in Save the Cat! Strikes Back by Blake Snyder … the poster for Miss Congeniality. The promise of that fantastic movie is right there in that single image.

The character we identify with and root for within the story. Note: These aren’t always traditional heros, but we empathise anyway.


One of Robert Cialdini’s seven principles of Influence. When someone gives us something we feel an obligation to respond. E.G. The free cup of coffee you are getting at the car dealership isn’t free, it has psychological weight.

The art of persuasion as codified by Aristotle, made (even more) famous by Churchill and beloved of politicians, religious leaders and salespeople everywhere. My fav book on this is Thank You For Arguing by Jay Heinrichs. See also: Logos, Pathos and Ethos.


One of Robert Cialdini’s seven principles of Influence. Put simply, we want things more if we believe we might not be able to get them/can’t have them. Put two toddlers in a room with one toy, and you’ll witness this. Adults are more sophisticated, but the emotion is the same.

Seth Godin
A rockstar in the marketing world. Seth’s done more to upgrade my thinking over the past 20 years than anyone else. If you are interested in the business side of telling stories, start with All Marketers Are Liars.

Blatant Plug: Seth was the special guest on my 1,000th podcast (8th June 2022).

The location of a story (in time and space).

Show (Don’t Tell)
A favourite maxim of writing coaches – don’t describe what a character is like, demonstrate it through their actions. (Equally valuable in real life.)

Significant Objects Project
The 2009 experiment by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn that showed how telling stories about 100 brick-a-brack items increased their perceived value (+2,700%). These stories altered the Anastora around these objects. See the Significant Objects website.

Describing something by comparing it explicitly with something else. E.g. Her questions felt like razor wire. Often confused with metaphors … especially by me.

See my 3-step process for creating Business Metaphors That Cut Though.

The older I get, the more power I see in simplicity.  The pull of new features, tools and tactics is insanely strong in today’s world, but so often it fails to deliver. This is as true of story as any part of business. Simple stories spread.

Social Proof
Humans are herd animals who seek to be accepted by ‘in-groups’ at whatever level. Plus, we’re designed to be ‘lazy’. Both these things make us susceptible to (and easily influenced by) the opinions of others. For some reason, we assume that other people are smarter and more conscientious than we are. One of Robert Cialdini’s seven principles of Influence.

Note: Knowledge of this effect offers no meaningful protection against its effects.

The awareness that everyone has a story. Taken from the deeply wonderful Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Keonig.

Stand-Back Storytelling
Rather than explicitly telling a story, we highlight the elements that will have our audience tell it to themselves. The most elegant and effective form of persuasion.

You know what this is. You have them and are them.

My minimum viable definition … a story is a sequence of linked events that include a character, a conflict and a consequence.

My regular newsletter.

Story Circles
Dan Harmon, the brains behind the epic show Community, simplifies The Hero’s Journey into something more manageable for television. Here are the 8 steps, but catch Harmon talking about it here.

  1. A character is in a zone of comfort,
  2. But they want something.
  3. They enter an unfamiliar situation,
  4. Adapt to it,
  5. Get what they wanted,
  6. Pay a heavy price for it,
  7. Then return to their familiar situation,
  8. Having changed.

When we use the insights of story structure to create kick-ass products and services. See The User Journey by Donna Lichaw.

Story Sum (also known as The Story Equation)
This is how I think about selling. When we make an Offer to a prospect, their decision will be the result of two stories. The first is the story they tell themselves about life if they take up our offer. Is it something they want? Does the benefit exceed the cost?

The second story is the one they tell about us … about our credibility, and our ability to deliver on the promise we are making.

The first story is traditional sales, the second is the story you are building every day. Starting right now. (And yes, this glossary is part of the story I’m telling.)

The ‘mythology’ of true, interconnected stories that a brand, business or individual tells about themselves. See also: World-Building.

Strategic Copywriting
Copy that’s written to build attention, connection and trust … to sell over time. See also: Conversion Copywriting.

The long-term goal. See the example of my studio. (Strategy is the highest leverage work we do.)

Strategic to Tactical
Business stories exist on a spectrum from Strategic to Tactical. Tactical Stories are often short triggers, designed to change someone’s perception around a small issue (e.g. a sales objection). Strategic stories focus on origins, core values and upstream decisions.

Structural Tension
In Robert Fritz’s insightful work on the Creative Process, he defines Structural Tension as the difference between where we are and where we want to be. This is desirable because as Fritz says, a basic principle of nature is that tension seeks resolution.

No, your teachers weren’t wasting your time when they droned on about subtext, they were showing you where the power lay. Great stories, scenes and dialogues draw huge energy from implicit meaning, the truth that’s not being said. The tension between surface and substance pulls us in. Think of Ross and Rachel, or the political intrigue of Game of Thrones. Their surface words rarely match their actions or feelings. And we love it because subtext makes us part of the story. It’s the stuff of life.

There’s a subtext to this whole glossary that relates to me and my business. It’s kind of related to Show (Don’t Tell).

Sometimes, we need to say what we really think. Plus, it turns out that swearing is good for you. (Didn’t we all secretly know that?)

Systems Thinking
In a nutshell … everything affects everything. Systems thinking explains why the lastest much-hyped marketing tactic didn’t work … and why it never will. HUGE shout out to my friend, André Chaperone of for helping me see the light.


The fundamental thing that moves us … the difference between where we are and where we want to be. See also: Structural Tension and Unbearable Present.

The subtext of a story, arc or sequence. For example, the theme of my onboarding sequence is trust.

Any story that ends unhappily (as opposed to Comedies … which end happily).

Trans-Media Storytelling
The increasingly common practice of telling a story across multiple mediums. If we loosen the definition, branding is trans-media storytelling.

The process through which an audience is transported into the world of the story. Note: This is not a touchy-feely thing. A well-constructed story will trigger physical reactions in our brain and body.

The biggest multiplier in business. Work hard to get it. Never abuse it. (This is a public service announcement.)


Unbearable Present
In his book, Maps of Meaning, Jordan Peterson illustrates how humans constantly try to move from the What Is (Unbearable Present) through the Chaos/Unknown and towards the What Should Be (Ideal Future). See also: Structural Tension.


A foundation of emotion, Valence is how pleasant or unpleasant our bodies are feeling at any moment. This is continually and unconsciously monitored through the process of Introception. See Lisa Feldman Barrett’s amazing book, How Emotions Are Made. See also: Arousal.


The wider process of building your interconnected web of stories, ideas, concepts and insights. See also: Storyverse.


I got nothing.


The most powerful word in copywriting and business in general. See also: But and Empathy.


The number of storytelling concepts I use that start with Z.


Where next?

Dig deeper with the Story.Business series.