The Age-old Power of Story

Stories have been with us from the very beginning of human existence. They go back long before writing and the invention of the alphabet. In some strange way, we all need stories to make sense of life.

“Once upon a time, there was the story, told by word of mouth, and that was how it was for tens of thousands of years. For most of human history stories have been painted on walls, danced, acted—and above all, said and sung.” -Robert Leeson

“The tribal storyteller was truly ‘the oldest profession’. He was excused from hunting, but if he failed to amuse the hunters round the fire each evening, they slew him. The storyteller still needs courage.” -Simon Jenkins

Long before the Bible was written its stories were told, passed on from parent to child, from teacher/teller to a group of listeners.

“Our entire faith is based on stories, starting with the story of the creation of the world and of the human race—stories about wars, triumphs and defeats, love affairs, marriages, births, deaths—the whole thing is stories, all the way to that magnificent, wonderful story of the birth of Jesus. And then Jesus came telling stories.”
-Frances Fuller

Story disarms and persuades. The reader is not on guard, but open. So the story can go straight to the heart, engaging interest, emotions and imagination to effect change.

“If anyone questions the power of art to change reality, let him consider what propagandist cinema, music, architecture, verse, rhetoric have done to whole populations.” -Walter Wangerin

There is a great flexibility in story: the reader takes from it what he or she wants and is ready for. If it’s a good story—one you want to read again and again—you may find something new each time. That is one of the great things about the Bible. Even when it is familiar to us, it is always new.

This article was excerpted from MAI’s booklet, Effective Story Writing, by Pat Alexander. It’s packed with practical principles of story writing. You’ll find this booklet and other resources for writing and publishing are available on MAI’s website.

Photo above courtesy

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