Storygridding 4,000 words of Big Idea Nonfiction

For fun, over at a while back, I storygridded Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal article from the June 3, 1996 edition of The New Yorker.  I tracked the narrative altitude in the work that I described in my post from February 2, 2018.

The vertical axis moves from the “street” level perspective at the lowest elevation through the “city” vantage point up to the “national” level and then all the way to the highest “universal” level. Four specific lenses that he uses to progressively build dramatic tension.

The horizontal axis takes us through the piece word by word, beat by beat, and subject by subject.

To see how Gladwell tackled so many academic disciplines (including personal history) as he moved his narrative camera shows just how much craft goes into a single article.

I recommend reading the piece with this graph in front of you to observe the professional writer performing the literary equivalent of Red Gerard’s final run at the Olympics.



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Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.



  1. Tony Levelle on February 16, 2018 at 7:01 am

    Extremely useful graph.
    Brilliant work.
    Thank you.

  2. sandra on February 16, 2018 at 7:17 am

    I keep learning every day, thanks to your posts.

  3. Renita on February 16, 2018 at 7:59 am

    If anyone is interested, read Narrative Maps by Michael White, narrative therapy co-creator. This graph is very like his own (2007) and shows how to help a person integrate hidden narratives. I’m pretty excited about this. Contact me if you want to discuss.

  4. Julia Murphy on February 17, 2018 at 12:50 am

    Thank you, Shawn.

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