BOOK REVIEW: Do Story

I’ve been working on a memoir about my struggle with addiction. I have a good story to tell about God’s grace and restoration. But I also realize that good stories poorly told are poor stories. There are principles to good storytelling that I want to use. Bobette Buster knows those principles. Her book Do Story is helping me to tell my story well.

Buster is a story consultant. She works with companies to help them tell more compelling stories with their products, services, and art. Her clients include Pixar, Disney and Sony Animation. She teaches at the University of Southern California. Buster’s book fits into the same category of work with Robert McKee, Joseph Campbell, Donald Miller, and Scott McClellan, who all write and speak about story as an essential element of humanity and an essential tool for human connection. Do Story was recommended to me by Jonathan Merritt, the Christian author and columnist.

Do Story is a short read — only 112 pages in paperback — and easily consumed. The style is breezy and accessible. The book reads like the transcript of one of Buster’s lectures at the USC film school. She even includes homework assignments she typically gives to her students. In that way, the content remains exclusively intellectual. That is to say, reading Do Story is a mental exercise, not a personal one. I did’t connect with the book on any level deeper than learning. Even in the chapter on vulnerability, I was unmoved. Do Story is a work book.

Buster shares 10 very practical principles of good storytelling and those 10 principles become the outline for the book. I won’t steal her thunder by listing them all, but they include things like:

  • “Action! Use active verbs or, as I like to say, ‘Think Hemingway.’”
  • “Be vulnerable: dare to share the emotion of your story."

While none of these are particularly groundbreaking, the outline is helpful. There’s even one page with all 10 principles listed in one place — suitable for copying and tacking to your cork board.

Do Story is a worthy read, but not a must-read. My guess is that it will show its worth as a reference to my memoir-writing and future storytelling projects.