You Are a Storyteller Podcast

Human beings are natural-born storytellers. We tell stories instinctively; they’re the basis for connection and communication. Everything we do is shaped by stories we’ve learned about ourselves and the world around us, and stories inform the way we live, the way we love, and the way we spend our time (and money). Stories also allow us to cope, to understand, to analyze, and to gain clarity and context. At their core, stories let us know we’re not alone.

In You Are a Storyteller, Belief Agency chief storyteller Brian McDonald discusses the elements that make for a good story with Belief Agency executive creative director Jesse Bryan. Watch and listen as they talk through the nuance of structure, stress the importance of the armature (or theme), analyze classic films, and cover useful storytelling concepts like “the dark night of the soul.”

Episode 1

The Armature

In this episode of You Are a Storyteller, Brian and Jesse cover the most essential component of any story: the armature. The armature is a framework which—if done well—supports the entire story. Not all stories have an armature, but all the best ones always do—and they’ll teach you how to spot one and how to create one.

Episode 2

How Stories Work

On this episode of You Are a Storyteller, Brian and Jesse unpack the definition of story, break down its essential components (proposal, argument, and conclusion), and talk about how to ensure every element in your story proves your armature—so you can tell a meaningful story, every time.

Episode 3

Three Act Structure

On this week’s episode of You Are a Storyteller, Brian and Jesse break down three-act structure and help the audience understand why structure matters. The co-hosts also lay out the essential components of each act, and provide other helpful tips related to three-act structure.

Episode 4

Clone Characters

On this week’s episode of You Are a Storyteller, Jesse and Brian discuss clones: what they are, why they’re important, and how to use them in your stories.

Episode 5

How to See

Before you can learn to do, you have to learn to see. Mastering anything, even something as natural as storytelling, requires time and energy—and lots of repetition. If you want to create great stories, you have to become a student of the best stories, and make this education a deliberate practice.

Episode 6

Stories in the Wild

On You Are a Storyteller, we cover all manner of topics on the process of crafting stories: the armature, three-act structure, clone characters, and more. But what about the stories we tell everyday? Stories are everywhere, we just need to look for them. We’ve been using them to impart survival information across time and space since the beginning of time—and we’re good at it. We are, as Jonathan Gottschild put it, storytelling animals.

Episode 7

The Power of Stories

One of the most powerful ways to move people is through stories. They contain the wisdom we need to survive. They’re essential for us as we live in and navigate the world around us. They are our hope when we are in despair. They are our guide when we’ve lost our way. And they are our inspiration when we are weary. We need stories—we simply cannot survive without them.

“Stories make the world, and stories change the world—all the time.”

Episode 8, Part one

Directing Q&A

In part one of this two-part series, Belief Agency’s Ian Ebright joins Brian McDonald to respond to your questions about writing. Together they cover how to work through your fear as a writer, how to do more showing than telling, and how to stay true to your armature.

Episode 8, Part two

Directing Q&A

In this week’s episode of You Are a Storyteller, we continue our special two-part Q&A series by answering questions about directing. Once again, we collected all manner of storytelling questions from our faithful followers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Episode 9

Writing from a Place of Truth

To develop as a storyteller, writers must learn to avoid certain traps. One trap is the temptation to create from a place of ego—making choices to stand out rather than to serve the story. Another trap is the allure of presentation, whether it’s focusing on screenplay formatting, filmmaking equipment, or new technology. But there’s a healthier way to grow as a storyteller that will ultimately benefit your stories and your audience—and that’s writing from a place of truth.

Episode 10

Why Being a Storyteller Matters

When we launched You Are a Storyteller back in 2018, we jumped right into things, starting with the most foundational component of story structure: the armature. However, in doing this, we forgot to share something pretty important with you all—the armature of our own show.

Episode 11

The Power Of Simplicity

In this week’s episode, we discuss how understanding the power of simplicity allows you to get out of the way and make creative decisions that better serve your story.

Episode 12

The Myth of Overnight Success

Behind every moment of triumph, there’s a story of struggle. For Brian McDonald, that story has been 33 years—and a lot of struggle—in the making. In this week’s episode, Brian talks about the release of his new graphic novel, “Old Souls,” and the journey from first word to launch.

Episode 13

How To Get Unstuck

In this week’s episode of You Are A Storyteller, Brian McDonald and Jesse Bryan talk about how to get unstuck. When you know how to get unstuck, you can avoid some of the stress and anxiety that comes from working under tight deadlines and deliver great stories on time.

Episode 14, Part one

Brian’s Influences

In the first of a special two-part series, Brian McDonald and Jesse Bryan talk about Brian’s influences – who they are, what he learned from them, and what you can learn from them, too.

Episode 14, Part two

Brian’s Influences

In the first of a special two-part series, Brian McDonald and Jesse Bryan talk about Brian’s influences – who they are, what he learned from them, and what you can learn from them, too.

Episode 15

Movies to Watch

On this week’s episode, Brian McDonald and Jesse Bryan talk about some of Brian’s favorite movies and the storytelling lessons you can learn from them.

Episode 16

How to Measure Success

As a storyteller, how should you be measuring and defining success? On this week’s episode, Brian and Jesse dive into what it truly means to succeed.

Episode 17

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Brian and Jesse discuss feedback and dive into questions like, “How do you give good feedback?” and “How do you sift through feedback you’ve received?”.

Episode 18

Charged Objects

Brian and Jesse discuss charged objects and how you can use them to make a deeper emotional connection with your audience.

Episode 19

The Importance of Focus

Brian and Jesse discuss focus – specifically how it relates to each character in your story.

Episode 20

Characters with Purpose

On this week’s episode, Brian McDonald and Jesse Bryan discuss how you can use storytelling principles to create characters that serve a purpose.

Episode 21

Story Structure in Everyday Life

Brian and Jesse discuss focus – specifically On this week’s episode of You Are A Storyteller, Brian McDonald and Jesse Bryan talk about how the principles of story structure apply to all areas of life, not just screenwriting and filmmaking.

Episode 22

Importance of Bravery

On this week’s episode of You Are A Storyteller, Brian McDonald and Jesse Bryan talk about what it means to be brave and how bravery can impact your stories.

Episode 23

The Golden Theme

In this episode of “You Are a Storyteller,” Brian and Jesse discuss Brian’s book, “The Golden Theme,” and how all stories share one big message: that we are all the same.

Episode 24

What Can We Learn from Stories in a Time of Crisis?

During any time of crisis, people search for answers and seek out resources that help them understand ways to cope. In this episode, Brian and Jesse delve deeper into the meaning of “survival information,” how it relates to stories of crises, and how these stories resonate with their listeners during difficult times.

Episode 25

Use What You Have to Make a Difference

In this episode, Brian and Jesse talk about the civil unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd, Brian’s personal experience in the entertainment industry as a black writer, and unpack how you can use what you have to make a difference and help change systemic racism, prejudice, and social injustice.