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  • The Secrets of Story

  • Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers
  • Written by: Matt Bird
  • Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer
  • Length: 12 hrs and 2 mins
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Secrets of Story is a revolutionary and comprehensive writing guide for the 21st century, focused on clever ways to get an audience to fully identify with an all-too-human hero. Authors will learn to how to cut through pop culture noise and win over a jaded modern audience by rediscovering the heart of writing: shaping stories that ring true to our shared understanding of human nature. Providing conversational advice that spans multiple disciplines - from fiction to film to creative nonfiction - Matt Bird's insightful techniques allow characters to come alive and stories to reach a new level of appeal.

©2016 Matt Bird (P)2016 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What listeners say about The Secrets of Story

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The Book on story you've been looking for

A refreshingly functional way to work with story, free of fluff and bother. I can't recommend it highly enough.

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So insightful

This is an outstanding book on story writing, structure, plot, characters, you name it. It checks all the boxes,
and he kicks open the doors to shares great information about all of this art form. After listening to this audio version, I’ll be ordering the actual book as a hard copy reference to so many insights. Very well done and you’ll be glad you took the time to check this material out. It’s a game changer.

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Learn a new phrase please!

Matt’s blog has been a fantastic resource, and the book is a helpful follow-up, but if I have to hear the phrase “au contraire” one more time I’m going to smash something. It’s like attending a masterclass taught by the apparently kid

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  • Gillian
  • 2017-05-26

Good Story Impossible? 'Au Contraire'!

Forget about what you've read in other writing books--Matt Bird goes for the unconventional, the counter-intuitive. From books to films, he uses great examples that will help you craft outstanding stories. I consider myself a writer, not screenwriter, and I found "The Secrets of Story" to be amazingly useful. He addresses myths in-depth, and tackles how-to, all in the one go of the book.
Perhaps you know him best from his blog, "The Cockeyed Caravan". If you do, you'll recognize The Ultimate Story Checklist and will appreciate it here, where it's dived into and where it appears as the Appendix. You can go to his blog also and download it there for free, but boy did I enjoy having it expanded upon. Perhaps you'll also recognize his delightful sense of humor, of irony (and if you don't have irony in your life, in your story, you're wasting everybody's time!).
What you'll learn most is how to write to an audience. This does NOT mean pandering or writing to the market, but it does mean people will actually read/see your work and will walk away with a sense of satisfaction and perhaps even joy.
I haven't learned this much even from Robert McKee's works on story and dialogue. And forgive me if it's blasphemy, but I was far more thrilled with "The Secrets of Story" than I was with Stephen King's seminal work, "On Writing". Don't get me wrong: you'll probably want both.
But if I had to choose? I'd choose this one, hands down.

74 people found this helpful

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  • Charley Dunn
  • 2017-01-09

I want this guy to be my editor

I hesitated to download this book since it had only 15 reviews which made me wary of artificial ratings. Much to my surprise I soon realized this book is an absolute treasure. I spend most of this past year (I am very serious about getting this right) consuming writer's resources hoping to find a few gems. I rank this book near the top along with McKee's "Story", Stein's "on writing", and Swain's "Techniques..". For the first time I am considering hiring an editor for my novel and if I do it will be Matt Bird. Thank you, Mr. Bird, for the effort you put into this work. It is an immense help to me.
- Charles Dunn 01/2017

66 people found this helpful

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  • aaron
  • 2016-11-07

The most important screenwriting book on Audible!

I had no idea who this guy was until I bought this book. Now, I'm convinced he's one of the most knowledgeable people in the screenwriting biz. Much of the stuff he touches on, I learned at a certain west coast school's MFA program, but I ended up paying a helluva lot more for that education than I did for this book!! Also, it's nice to have everything all neat and clean in a tidy package like this.

Anyone writing a screenplay, no matter what level you're at, would be well-served in listening to this audiobook.

And that is all. Time to write.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Frances
  • 2018-04-19

Career Changing

If I could have given this books ten stars, I would have. I have read at ton - and I mean A TON - of writing craft books. I spent 3 years of my life and over fifty thousand dollars earning an MFA in creative writing. If I had found this book first, I wouldn't have needed the degree.

In The Secrets of Story, Matt Bird offers something I've found to be missing in almost every other craft book I've ever read: a succinctly explained breakdown of the specific elements that make a story memorable, emotionally compelling, and therefore, of course, highly salable. Throughout the book, he lists over 120 questions to ask about your story, which lead you to discover your story's weak spots and possible holes. Then, he gives examples--specific examples from books and film to illustrate his points. I experienced so many "ah-ha" moments while listening to this book (I purchased the audiobook through Audible) I can't even begin to list them. The narrator, Eric Michael Summerer, is absolutely perfect for this book and adds emphasis - and humor - in all the right places.

I am the author of a memoir and six novels, only enjoying marginal success, but I didn't know WHY. How come my stories haven't taken off and captured the hearts of millions, instead of only a few? Now I know. I promise you, my next book will be light years better. Matt Bird has given me the tools I so desperately needed to bring my writing to the next level--and maybe a few levels above that.

Note: this book is not for the casual, weekend warrior who claims to want to learn to improve their craft, but isn't willing to put in the work it takes to get there. I highly suggest you listen to the audio version of this book first, then buy the paperback. Which is exactly what I have done. It will reside on my writing desk as a reference guide from this day forward.

Thank you, Mr. Bird, for giving me what the many, very talented teachers in my MFA program tried to, and what the scores of other craft books I've read failed to do. You have shone a light down a dark tunnel. You have given me the tools I need to make my stories resound in the hearts of my readers.

Thank you.

35 people found this helpful

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  • Alex Myers
  • 2016-12-21

Best book on writing ever! A comprehensive effort

This will be my number one recommended book to my writer friends to novices and old hacks.

27 people found this helpful

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  • Lauri Donahue
  • 2016-12-10

Probably better in print

This is a pretty good book about screenwriting, and it's better-written than most. I also appreciate that the author has a sense of humor and isn't too full of himself.

However, since it's basically a "how to" book, it's more useful in print form. I gave up on the Audible version after 5 chapters.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Patricia Holdiman
  • 2017-02-06

Valuable resource with good insight

In my desire to be a writer I have read many books on how to write, how to build characters etc etc.
This is actually the first book that Supplied enough information to make the time spent reading/listening to it worthwhile.
Mr. Bird gave great advice and broke down a lot of the details into smaller and more understandable chunks of information.
I was actually beginning to lose hope that I would find a book that is so useful.
I have already read this book twice and I intend to keep reading it until everything sinks in to my thick cranium.
I would definitely recommend this book and say that it's worth every penny.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Dax
  • 2017-03-21

Must Read for Story

An amazing book ever student and writer must read. The author does a great job articulating concepts not mentioned in other such story books and has up to date (2016) references.

18 people found this helpful

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  • rita v.
  • 2017-02-15

Best Book on Fiction I've Read So Far

Sorry, this book is so complete and simple at the same time so thorough I would have to write all morning. You will be happy to have discovered it.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Bethany
  • 2019-12-22

Best for a specific audience

That the author of this book is much more experienced than I am is not in question. I have no doubt at all that if I had continued after the 1 hour and 30 minutes that I listened I would have found several helpful tidbits. He is engaging in his style and the narration is clear.

However, this book is directed very pointedly only at writers who write to get paid/gain notoriety. Indeed, the author directly states that there is no reason to write unless you are doing so for an audience. He says this very shortly into the book and I probably should have stopped there but I was hoping that this was simply a difference of opinion I could overlook. That this is a grossly inaccurate opinion to me probably should have cued me in sooner that I wouldnt feel connected to this author or his beliefs.

He goes on from there to share an hour and a half of how you will not succeed as a writer. He tells you that you probably can't write, if you can, you probably don't know how to resonate with an audience (that same audience that is the only possible reason for writing), and if you do, you probably won't create very relatable characters. if you manage all that, you still probably won't find anyone to take your story and if they do they will change it beyond recognition.

Maybe he is completely correct. However, I write to amuse myself and since I enjoy honing my craft as much as I can, i like to learn about it. my goal in reading books like this is to learn to be a better version of myself in writing, not to be told that I must do it to please strangers and I'll probably fail at that anyway


if you are writing to break into the publishing world and to sell your books, you may find value here. I would suggest however that maybe you want to skip the first hour and a half (since it is incredibly uninformative and also negative) and see what else he might say of use. perhaps after that you could cautiously listen to his beginning.

good luck, whatever your hopes and dreams are

15 people found this helpful