Master this Storytelling Framework

The “Somebody-Wanted-But-So” way to tell a story

Tarek Amr
4 min readJul 23, 2022

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Someone: I am interested in writing, mostly blogs. And like most of us, I write about different topics. Sometimes these are computer science related, some other times it is about anything else from my dietary habits to the latest books I’ve read.

Wanted: When writing, I like to connect the dots and juxtapose topics from different fields. I want those heterogeneous thoughts to live in harmony into a story-like narrative. And above all, I wish for the final outcome to be engaging and entertaining.

But: But often enough, the final outcome looks like my desk at home, messy and cluttered … why is that sock sitting next to my laptop?

So: I am going to practice the “Somebody-Wanted-But-So” technique.

Did you notice what I’ve just done here?

I put the premise of this blog into four steps, the somebody, the wanted, the but and the so. If you think about it, most of the stories we read and the movies we like can be summarised via the same four steps; SWBS.

You first introduce the main character of your story. This introduction has to also justify the next step: what the main character wants. Then after you make us realise what they want, you build tension by having an obstacle — the but — that prevents them from achieving their goal, then the tension is release by the last step — the so-lution.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

This framework goes beyond fiction. Students are advised to use it to summarise the literature they read. Presenters follow it in their TED-like talks. And marketers may use it to write a copy that sells.

In the next section, we will examine the how the “Somebody-Wanted-But-So” framework may be used in different fields.

Come up with a new fiction idea

Say you wanna write a short story. You can then follow this SWBS framework. Each on of your main characters wants somethings. Maybe what the protagonist wants contradicts with what the antagonists wants, and this contradiction is the building block of your plot. Maybe the normal course of life is the “but” to your somebody’s “want”. In all cases, you should…

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Tarek Amr

I write about what machines can learn from data, what humans can learn from machines, and what businesses can learn from all three.