So what’s the big payoff for The Tipping Point?

A step by step recipe to take a lousy product and make it a word of mouth sensation?

A feel good celebration of mass behavior?

Not even close.

There is not a Hush Puppy or Muppet to be found in this crucial last section of Gladwell’s book.  Instead, Gladwell elegantly deconstructs how negative tipping points happen…specifically how suicide is a remarkably contagious behavior.  The final payoff of Gladwell’s book is a warning.  A sobering one too…


The Ending Payoff Story Grid Spreadsheet for The Tipping Point

The Ending Payoff Story Grid Spreadsheet for The Tipping Point

  • Mary Doyle

    Thanks for taking us all the way through this and across the finish line Shawn! I’m reading The Martian for the podcast on the 23rd.

  • Beth

    I think the timing of this is [accidentally] apropos, given the increase in mass shootings. I have wondered out loud today what the tipping point is for gun violence. I know this comment is not on the topic of writing, per se…

    • Shawn Coyne

      I agree Beth. What Gladwell wrote about is extremely applicable to what we’re witnessing today. With the remarkable positives that have come with the Internet and a vastly connected world come some serious negatives…the ability to spread violent messages and their stickiness for people isolated and ignored by contemporary western culture/society is extraordinary.

  • Shawn it seems to me that in your fiction grid for Silence of the Lambs the plot points and value charges tie together and escalate far more coherently than in The Tipping Point. I would guess that this would extrapolate to fiction vs. non-fiction more generally. The Tipping Point grid looks more like of an interesting series of stories about the main theme, where he takes care to alternate POV, time period, heroes, etc. But the value changes are often the same and there isn’t really a sense of escalation, is there? Or points-of-no-return? Is the key to nonfiction from a grid perspective, then, really just to have a excellent thesis and a bunch of interesting little stories that work to make it clear? The only other broad take-aways I can I see are that Gladwell has a “beginning” and an “ending”, and he was a little strategic in his choices of which stories to use. And—like in any good story—the value charges change in each scene or mini-story. Are there any other key takeaways you’ve taken from “grid-ing” nonfiction that I missed? Thanks.

    • Shawn Coyne

      Great questions Jonny. Let me give some more thought to them. I confess that I’m disturbed that those are the only takeaways you’re walking away with from the work I put in here. That’s no criticism of you. I’ve obviously more work to do to make myself clear. Thank you for the heads up. It’s a bummer, but this ain’t about me…

      • Thanks Shawn. It could well be that I’m doing the annoying thing that happens all too often today where people want something complex simplified into a soundbite. All the same, I’m working in nonfiction and really want to pull all the insights I can from story-gridding, so I do appreciate you thinking about the question. Sorry if I hurt you in asking. Hopefully it will lead to useful insights for you and I both in the long run.

      • Larry

        I actually think this is a huge takeaway, though perhaps not one you intended. It is that, at the end of the day, there are still some basic differences between fiction and nonfiction.

        In the Middle Build of a Big Idea nonfiction book, what exactly is being built? I would suggest that what is being built is evidence for/explanation of the central thesis of the book — the Big Idea. Rather than have progressive complications, one is trying for progressive clarification. Hence Johnny White’s observation that “…the value changes are often the same and there isn’t really a sense of escalation, is there? Or points-of-no-return?”

        What is escalating is not tension or empathy or some other overall value that might apply to a novel, but the number of examples and building blocks for the thesis. If there is a point of no return, it is where the reader says “Aha” and buys in to the Big Idea.

        All of which is apparent in your prior posts, Shawn.

        Also, based on your prior posts, I think adding an ethos/pathos/logos column to the Storygrid to make sure one is using all three would be useful.