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A good story costs less than a divorce (even this one)

Emily walks back into the flat and tells me, “I’ve got our divorce sorted.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I had just popped into Tesco to buy some food and I also got this.”

She shows me an envelope branded in blue and red, with the supermarket logo and the words “DIY Separation & Divorce Kit” right below it. 

“How much did you pay for that??”

“You won’t believe it.”

“Go on…”


“No way! And is that supposed to be legit? We can really get divorced with that?”

“Yes!! We just stick this CD in, fill out the questions, print it, sign it and that should be it.”

We start going through it and one of the questions is about why we are getting divorced. 

“Oh, I read about this,” she says. “In the UK we can’t just say we fell out of love or anything like that, they might try to get us to do couples therapy.”

“What do I write then?”

“Just say it’s my ‘unreasonable behaviour.’ I want kids right now, which you don’t, and I’m trying to force you to move to the US immediately.” 

“But that’s not true. Are you sure you’re ok with me writing this down?”

“Sure. We got married because of me, I was the one who needed the visa, I might as well get us out of it.”

We finish the questions, print the document and sign it. 

“What happens now?”, I ask. 

“I post this, and we hope it works!”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Well, then I guess we’ll just have to stay married!”

We both laugh nervously and pretend that’s funny. 

But we’re not fooling anyone. 

The price of a good story 

Many people think a good story needs lots of excitement, twists and turns, incredible adventures, drama and betrayal. That’s true - if you’re writing Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad

Most stories just need to feel real, and have something unexpected in them. Like this one: the dialogue is not witty or funny, we’re not doing anything particularly fantastic, it just feels mostly… ordinary. Sure, it’s about a divorce, and the way we’re going about it is unexpected, but I’d argue that's not worth a full story. This is why it works: 

Super specific details

  • I told you the name of the supermarket (Tesco) 

  • The colours the envelope was branded (blue and red) 

  • The actual name of the thing (“DIY Separation & Divorce Kit”)

  • And the price (£7.49) 

The last detail is the most important, because it’s so specific it’s hard to think I just made that up (I didn’t, that was the actual price of the thing, I checked!). I could’ve been vaguer about some of those, but they’re easy to add to the story, won’t take up the audience’s attention (like loads of physical descriptions would) and they make the story feel real, which is essential. 

The ending

It’s just two lines - short as most story endings should be - but they change the story. Up until then this seems like a breezy relationship, nobody is upset about this divorce, we’re all friends here. But then those two lines suggest there’s more to it than that. Can you know how much more? You can’t - and that’s the magic of it. You’ve gotten a glimpse of something more, that might just stay with you longer than a story about a supermarket divorce kit would. 

Does every ending need to do that? No. Most story endings should show how the main character changed, and what they learned. That’s what will usually stick with people. But a deeper point you only hint at adds a whole new dimension to a story, and that feels real - because life is not ever simple, is it? 

Making your stories great should cost you less than a divorce - even this one 🤘


Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Getting clarity through your story to stand out from all the other coaches, speakers and entrepreneurs out there 

  2. If you dream of speaking on the Red Dot, take this Scorecard and instantly discover how likely your idea is to be accepted by a TED-style organizing committee

  3. If you (or your team) got any storytelling challenges, I’m sure there’s something we can do together ;-)

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