Developing the Story: Analogous Worlds

Malcolm Gladwell

Lesson time 15:28 min

Using David and Goliath and “What the Dog Saw,” Malcolm teaches you how to look for patterns and draw connections between seemingly disparate ideas.

Malcolm Gladwell
Teaches Writing
In 24 lessons, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point teaches you how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas.
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A pattern is something that appears in different worlds simultaneously. That's what a pattern, to my mind, is. So you'll see patterns, so long as you inhabit different worlds. So, you know, a pattern might be something that shows up in music, fashion, and, you know, sports. A trend would be something that surfaces-- and those worlds are connected, but not-- they don't overlap. They're-- they have subtle connections. But if you see something popping up in those kinds of-- then you know oh, that's a trend, right? So in order to see the trend, all you really need to do is to spend a little bit of time in those different worlds. So I always think a part of what I need to do, in order to kind of understand what's going on, is to make sure that I'm regularly leaving my own little island and visiting other islands. I don't always do a good job of that, but sometimes it's just about-- you know, yeah, I don't know if I always do a good job of that, but I do try-- I do think, in my mind, about how important it is to-- to trespass into-- in foreign territories. [MUSIC PLAYING] The book "David and Goliath," the original idea came from-- I went to a conference once, and it was a software conference, and I didn't know anything about software, but they had this kind of mixer that I was required to attend. And I found myself chatting to this guy who was from India. And he was talking about-- we talked about sports, because that's all I could talk about, because I didn't know anything about software. So we were talking about sports, and he told me that he was the coach of his daughter's basketball team. And I said, oh, because I-- he had a very strong Indian accent. It was clear he was an immigrant to this country of relatively recent vintage. And I was like, oh, you know, that's kind of interesting. You know, it wasn't like-- most basketball coaches are people who had played basketball as a kid. And I was like, did you play basketball in India? He's like, oh, no, no, no, I played cricket, never even-- I was like so, wow, you must have mastered-- you know, I got him talking. And he told me this story. He's like, yeah, I know nothing about basketball, he said. In fact, I think basketball, as it's played by Americans, is crazy. I don't-- once I got the rules explained to me, I was like, why do they play it in such a weird way? He didn't understand why one team would advance the ball up the court and the other team would wait-- the team on defense would wait at the other end for the play to come to them. If you know basketball, what he was wondering was why don't teams on defense play a full-court press the whole game, all the time. The most-- you know, basically he was like, you let the defenses, nine times out of 10, let the other team advance into their own end and set up their offense, and then they decide to defend. It would be as if we waited for Canada to arrive on the outskirts of Washington DC, right, before we mounted a defense....

Transform the ordinary

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. Now, the renowned storyteller and best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point is teaching his first online writing class. Craft stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Malcolm's writing and the course gave me unprecedented joy about his books. He is one of the best writers i have known. Thank you for your detail course. I really enjoyed the course.

What an interesting teacher! I wonder if much gets eaten during dinner parties at the Gladwell home. The conversations!

The section on Research and looking at the footnotes has already proven it's worth to me!

I signed up for the all access just to take this class. Malcolm was a delight to listen to. Lots of helpful information. Thank you.


Russell H.

The takeaway: finding a metaphorical connection to your story in another, but comparable and applicable context, introduces the characteristic of the transformative power of your original idea. This can transform the perception / thought of the reader in relation to your original idea and transport both themselves and the idea/s to new contexts. and reveal hidden insights and truths.

A fellow student

Cool way of interpreting ideas that can be used as inspiration for storytelling, cool insight.

Sam A.

Words to live by: "How to give more weight to something trivial[...] to turn it into something profoundly moving, in much more consequential settings like people struggling with real life problems . That all stems from an unwillingness to settle for the world I was given and being determined to find another universe to tell the story about. [...]Is there an analogous world that dealt with the same question that would transform the story to something much more powerful?" The one point I differ with is that , in my opinion, all writers—especially fiction writers like screenwriters and novelists—should ask themselves that question. Readers or TV shows enthusiasts can easily spot some vanilla story and characters. And even worse, reusing a character or a story like salvaged material from older pieces to the point it becomes a recycling industry.


Wow, as a copywriter, and story teller... I often look for ways, to bring in other influences, to the topic... Great way to bring, newness to a story blend, lessons via analogous connections. Like colors on a color wheel, triad, monochrome, analogous, etc.

Donna A.

I've learned something from each lesson so far but I have to say this one is really inspiring. The idea of finding connections outside of a specific topic that can help me to understand that topic on a deeper level is not only exciting, it articulates what sets some writing apart. Thank you.

Karyn P.

I love Malcolm's enthusiasm for his stories. I find myself smiling often as I listen to him talk and teach.

Colette B.

Malcolm's lessons are very insightful, thought-provoking and challenge perceptions. I am thoroughly enjoying this course.

A fellow student

Malcom, I've now been hearing you pronounce analogous as if it were spelled analogious several times throughout this course. Is that a Canadian thing? Surely someone as erudite as you couldn't be making such a mistake, which is why I lean towards concluding I'm missing something. Also I am adoring this course : )

Carmine D.

Great lesson! Unfortunately can't access the Art of Failure article as it is archived, thereby requiring a digital subscription.

Diane B.

I am writing a book based on a true story about a woman in 1960s who has an illness stemming from her pituitary other gland. Her husband is also taking an unpopular stand against a Kkk type group. Where can I find the article? Or what is the author’s name ? The one written by the Israeli endocrinologist? This could be very helpful to me. Thank you.