6 storytelling lessons from Neil Simon

The playwright and screenwriter, who died Sunday at 91, was known for family dynamics, comedic gold and tidy storylines. Here are storytelling insights from a storied writing career.

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Few writers have ever soared to such sustained heights as playwright Neil Simon did, beginning with a burst of success in the 1960s.

Simon died Sunday at age 91 in New York, leaving an expansive comedic legacy and a trove of lessons for any writer to emulate.

Simon was a four-time Oscar nominee and a 17-time Tony nominee. At one point in 1966 he had four plays running on Broadway simultaneously and even owned a Broadway playhouse. In 1983, he had a Broadway house named for him.

Yet he long suffered under the label of a commercially popular, yet critically underappreciated writer. Only when he dug into his own personal background with such autobiographical works as “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lost in Yonkers” did Simon capture both popular and critical acclaim.

Communicators have much to learn from the long career Simon enjoyed. Whether it’s employing humor to explore emotional truth or drawing from personal experience to weave a compelling narrative, communicators should remember what Simon knew to be the only hard rule in storytelling: Don’t be boring.

Here are lessons from some of Simon’s most-beloved works:

1. Repurpose old ideas.

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