How to write a story | John Dufresne | TEDxFIU

  • Published on Dec 11, 2014
  • This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Take a journey inside a writer's mind and learn his approach to creating a story.
    John Dufresne is the author of five novels, two of which were New York Times Notable Books of the Year, two short story collections and two books on writing and creativity: The Lie That Tells a Truth: a Guide to Writing Fiction and Is Life Like This?: a Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months. The New York Times Book Review wrote of his latest novel, No Regrets, Coyote, “Dufresne is an original talent. His humor is frightfully dark, but also quite dazzling - even by the exacting standards of South Florida crime fiction.” Dufresne was a 2012-13 Guggenheim Fellow and teaches in FIU’s Creative Writing MFA program.
    About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Comments • 492

  • Gareth D'Haillecourt
    Gareth D'Haillecourt 10 hours ago

    Starting real well...sit in the chair, pick up the pen and write.

  • Tatjana Baker
    Tatjana Baker 5 days ago

    This was the best instruction, in creative writing, that I’ve ever experienced.

  • Jascha Thais
    Jascha Thais Month ago

    This was perfect. Wonderful advice!!

  • Alyssa
    Alyssa Month ago

    College Applications seem kimda fun now

  • Klyn Akwarandu
    Klyn Akwarandu Month ago

    This is legit the most informative ted talk on writing I have ever watched. Thank you so very much for this and he didn't even have a slide. It all flowed effortlessly.

  • Sofa Ⓥ
    Sofa Ⓥ Month ago

    But him pointing out that every story has a goal helped me a lot, cus I realised mine didn't really have one yet. And now it does and it feels great!

  • Sofa Ⓥ
    Sofa Ⓥ Month ago

    Audio is bad :(

  • Chris Calzone
    Chris Calzone 2 months ago

    So many of you dummies have this compulsive need to follow rules and adhere to a system in order to be rewarded - or in this case finish a story. It's like you weasel out of actually working by constantly asking questions every time a new authority figure offers advice that differs from the other 35 writing videos you watched today. There isn't a quick solution that will deliver results by following a checklist and "rules." Some of these comments are so pathetic.

  • Ivair Gomes
    Ivair Gomes 2 months ago

    I would like you to enable TEDx TAlks videos so we can contribute subtitles from other languages.

  • Ivair Gomes
    Ivair Gomes 2 months ago

    Gostaria que habilitassem os videos do TEDx TAlks para podermos contribuir com legendas de outras linguas.

  • - Jellyzwop -
    - Jellyzwop - 2 months ago

    Thanks for listening to my...wait. I should be writing right now 😂
    Nevermind 😐

  • princess A
    princess A 2 months ago +1

    i wanna take my friends breath away... "look at my amazin' story.."
    i think , I'd better amaZE myself rather than doin' it for myself ...

  • bennies fried chicken
    bennies fried chicken 2 months ago

    i was at school and wrote a piece about cthulhu and i was interested in gods and i had alot of ideas, but it turns out my english teacher loved it, eventhough i never wrote before, but i also kind of enjoyed it too, and enjoyed when my teacher complemented it,

    but after i was kind of lost, my teacher instead gave me her idea and i wrote of that and im back on track but it still doesnt feel right i feel like i do to much describing and stuff perhaps maybe im aiming to high? idk

    but i have a few other ideas for writing! and maybe they will help.

  • kamuelalee
    kamuelalee 2 months ago

    That' photographer must be getting paid overtime...guy just won't quit.

  • Roy Normann Lee
    Roy Normann Lee 3 months ago

    Boring, sigh, all these retirees are boring

  • Ravenstorm Studios
    Ravenstorm Studios 3 months ago +1

    The story he tells feels so real

  • Aurora
    Aurora 3 months ago +3

    I was following intently until he said "the plot thickens", and then all of the memes flashed before my eyes...

  • borxdom
    borxdom 4 months ago +1

    wow i´m so inspired now thank you

  • Taufiq Usman
    Taufiq Usman 4 months ago

    Very Creative...

  • rulenumber1
    rulenumber1 4 months ago +1

    I haven't been writing for a year. It's been my biggest passion ever since I was little. This video and this guys talk made writing seem so exciting again! I've already started on an idea to work on :)

    I feel like when I step away from writing it's so nerve-racking to try and come back to writing. I don't know why but I get so overwhelmed.

  • chander vesh
    chander vesh 4 months ago

    so boring, how to do things interestingly

  • Jeffrey C. McAndrew
    Jeffrey C. McAndrew 5 months ago +2

    This guy reminds me of Richard Lewis from "Curb Your Enthusiasm,"

  • major Forever
    major Forever 5 months ago +1

    The camera snaps are really annoying!

  • Ok Alright
    Ok Alright 5 months ago +1

    this dude is Socrates. just whipping out pure philosophy. its almost art how he speaks. amazing ted talk.

  • KittenIsland
    KittenIsland 5 months ago

    Has anyone transcribed and pasted this yet? I'd love to copy and have this in notes as a readable quote. I would do it if I had a desktop rn.

  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump 5 months ago

    That annoying camera sound freaking ruined the story for me.

  • Winnie Jenkins
    Winnie Jenkins 5 months ago

    There is a reason I stopped reading his craft book

  • Paul Regan
    Paul Regan 6 months ago +1

    "Fiction has to make sense"
    If only D&D watched this.

  • Daniel Fuller
    Daniel Fuller 6 months ago

    This was the most pointless TED talk

  • Dev Env
    Dev Env 6 months ago +1

    He abandons technical explanations and gets into too much scene discussion at 3:26
    His technical explanations finally continue at 11:54 ...
    Oh wait, technical explanations stop again at 12:11, and he goes back to teaching scene through example, but that's too hard too follow.

    GLEAM 6 months ago +1

    yes, he resembles Bill Gates..

  • Nafim Ul Abir
    Nafim Ul Abir 6 months ago

    I smiled when he said, `Fiction has to make sense,' so life doesn't make sense??? Haha.

  • Derek Frost
    Derek Frost 6 months ago +1

    Great writer but really dull speaker. I fell asleep.. :)

  • PlantiPal
    PlantiPal 7 months ago

    I wish the person with the camera would shove it up their left nostril and pull it out by the strap, out of the right.

  • Raunaq Virk
    Raunaq Virk 7 months ago

    Wow.... Sir you are amazing..........

  • Gabriel Carpenter
    Gabriel Carpenter 7 months ago +2

    "cat sits resplendently"

  • Ablan
    Ablan 7 months ago +1

    Do you like mine?
    Once upon a time there was a giraffe named Memo. He was had the shortest neck among all of his cousins, so they would usually tease him for that. One day when Memo and his cousins where eating the leaves of a tree, they started to eat from the bottom to the top. When they ate all of the leaves from the bottom Memo couldn't reach the leaves from the top as he was the shortest of them all. So he stretched his legs and neck to reach the leaves but unfortunately he lost his balance and fall.
    Memo's cousins heard a loud thud and looked down. Much to their suprise they saw Memo on the ground crying in pain. "Are you okay?" Asked Memo's cousins. Then he responded with "I'm fine but my left leg hurts a lot." Then the two suggested him to see a doctor about his leg and so he did. He was on his way when he saw a sad monkey drawing a picture of a tree with a stick. "Hey why are you so sad and don't you want to play with your friends on the trees?" Asked Memo. "That's why I'm so sad. I'm afraid of heights and I want to play with my friends" responded the monkey. Memo suggested to help him overcome his fear of heights. The monkey thanked him then Memo asked for his name. "My name is Amir" responded Amir.
    Memo tried to help Amir by putting him on his head and slowly rising his neck but even though Memo's neck was shorter than the average giraffe Amir still was terrified and climbed down. While the two were doing this the two spotted a hippopotamus crying by the bank of a river. They approched him and asked "What's wrong hippo?" "Even though I'm a hippopotamus I'm afraid of water and my friends make fun of me" responded Pop in sadness. While they were discussing this a nile crocodile leaped out of the water and attacked Amir. He escaped by climbing up a tree. Then Pop attacked the crocodile in rage of hurting his friend. The croc tried to escape by swimming away in the water but Pop chased after him and gave him a good beating. All of a sudden the two realized that they had conquered their fear without even knowing. Everyone was happy and Memo went to the doctor in peace.

  • Samnang Sokhom
    Samnang Sokhom 7 months ago

    I have a story lingering in my head for the last 10 years, but i have no story writing experience nor even have any writing skills what so ever. My grammatics is terrible. Where do I begin.

  • fly away
    fly away 7 months ago

    Great talk!

  • JustAPerson
    JustAPerson 7 months ago +1

    They need to watch a TED talk about how to mic up a speaker properly.

  • Jlinus
    Jlinus 8 months ago

    Heres me watching how to write a story while I actually procrastinate writing my story 😅

  • Yellowhat Dick
    Yellowhat Dick 8 months ago +2

    How to write a story,
    and, when you get stuck;
    add a hot tub, some bikini girls and
    talk about whatever is on your mind.
    Adding an inanimate object
    with Tom Hank's face CGI-ed on
    and making it a character too,
    is good.
    Sure fire solutions;
    it's gotten me through more than
    150 books.

  • Abhinav Thakur
    Abhinav Thakur 8 months ago +1


  • Craig Hurley
    Craig Hurley 8 months ago +2

    What a beautifully taught example of flushing out a story in first draft. Good for a few listens and a few notes. Thanks for posting.

  • Shushila Sharma
    Shushila Sharma 8 months ago +13

    this talk is heavily underrated

  • Nirav
    Nirav 9 months ago

    This TED talk was amazing, but I couldn't focus half the time because of the photographer.

  • Anna Maledon Picture Book Author

    That is a storytelling at its best. I had to hold my tears. This is how you tell a story.

  • MsRockstella
    MsRockstella 9 months ago +1

    Omg I clapped at the end thats a first :D awesome

  • Joseph Khalil
    Joseph Khalil 9 months ago +1

    The only obstacle is I'm bored. Llgot excited the first 40 seconds and that's about it

  • Harry Hildebrandt
    Harry Hildebrandt 9 months ago

    I either do or do not agree with every thing this guy has said, but I see value in considering all of it. I think that as long as you intend an effect with every addition to your story, you're in good shape. Don't do anything without knowing why.

  • witless X
    witless X 10 months ago +2

    EVVVEEEryone knows what FIU stand for.

  • Kahina Mes
    Kahina Mes 10 months ago +2

    I am writing a novel and i am so impressed by this Man , i like what he says and the way he says it 🌹

  • NoMan'sChannel
    NoMan'sChannel 10 months ago

    Fantastic speech

  • 付和雷同
    付和雷同 10 months ago

    Okay this is a good talk. I found a lot of information about "writing theories". But what presenter did in this video is a demonstration of actual writing, the process of his thought when he is writing.

  • nanographics 21
    nanographics 21 10 months ago


  • Shivendra N S
    Shivendra N S 10 months ago

    What a beautiful talk! Thank you, John Dufresne

  • liam carmichael
    liam carmichael 10 months ago

    Brilliant talk.

  • Ezra Luke
    Ezra Luke 10 months ago

    i really liked this video and for some reason i got like 4 different plots i want to write now

  • Ibrahim Abdirahman
    Ibrahim Abdirahman 11 months ago


  • JENI T
    JENI T 11 months ago +1

    Bravo 👏🏽 thank you for this wonderful advice.