Tag Archives: story

A few bits about Story

There have been a few story-related items that have come across my inbox in the past few days.

The first is this video about the necessity of story-telling in a post-broadcast era

Winning the Story Wars – The Hero’s Journey from Free Range Studios on Vimeo.

One thing I found a little ironic was the comment about the importance of living out the values we espouse with LiveStrong featured in the video and the recent revelations about Lance Armstrong.

Another is this post from Michael Hyatt on the essential elements of powerful storytelling.

And the last is this list of things to know if you want to be successful in the field of visual storytelling.

What are the most important lessons in story and storytelling you have come across?

The Art of Storytelling

QIdeas has a great video by Bobette Buster. It is an edited version of a longer talk she gives on the Art of Storytelling.

In it she talks about how the power of stories from the time of the Industrial Revolution, through the Holocaust up until today.

She emphasises that the stories that resonate with us are stories of transformation, where people become fully alive, or the converse, a cautionary tale where through their choices people become the living dead. She points out that these issues of reinvention and redemption are the issues that draw us in to stories.

She points out that from a technical point of view we have mastered every aspect of film-making. The one aspect of film-making that we have not mastered however, is story-telling. The challenge for us is to become experts in this art so that we can tell compelling stories to a world that is yearning for them

Some new podcasts I’m listening to

LIfe in Hong Kong consists of plenty of commuting, and my usual habit is to listen to podcasts or music while I’m on the bus or train. Some of the podcasts I’ve recently started listening to that I enjoy and find useful are:

The Kindlings Muse: Dick Staub hosts discussions and interviews on movies, literature, culture and theology. Rev Earl Palmer is a regular guest.

Story4All: The podcast from the folks at International Orality Network. A wide range of reports, lectures and discussions on the storytelling, communicating to oral learners, and the importance of story in communicating to today’s generation. One of the best Christian podcasts out there and I can’t believe I didn’t find it earlier.

Ministry Story: David Tonen shares principles and guidelines for how to use technology, marketing and branding in ministry, or as he puts it, “helping you to tell your story.” Often very practical, manageable steps that we can take.

Intelligence Squared: Podcast of the excellent quality debates run by Intelligence Squared, usually featuring Oxbridge folk. Being debates, of course you can’t agree with everything being said, but the best thing about these debates is that there are no real mismatches.

What podcasts do you listen to regularly? And which would you recommend?

A Story Matrix for Evangelism

Design Empathy Symphony Play/Fun Meaning
Your Story
My Story
God’s Story

Let’s start off with some basic definition for the labels across the top:

Design: The aesthetic qualities that attract us to something. The quality of the art.

Empathy: The connection to the emotions of the audience.

Symphony: The combining of different elements in harmony.

Play/Fun: The ability to stimulate a sense of enjoyment.

Meaning: The connection to a greater significance.

And now some definitions for those down the side:

Your Story: The story of the person we are speaking to.

My Story: The story of my life and experience.

God’s story: The story of God’s interaction with the world.

And now let’s ask ourselves. If this is a matrix of our evangelistic engagement with someone, how comprehensive (i.e. how many of these bases have we got covered) in our evangelism?

Perhaps a lot of our evangelism has been stuck in just the one cell in the bottom right hand corner. Perhaps we have been regularly including a few of these elements. But the challenge for us is to include all of these elements to provide a comprehensive, holistic engagement of our audience in evangelism.

And then, of course, the next question is, “Well, how do we do that?”

What do you think?

[This table is adapted from one used at the Inside Story 2006 conference as explained in the Story4All podcast episode 39]


Storytelling Animals

Christianity Today has a great article on how first-person storytelling is the new buzz in the club scene in New York, and its Christian roots.

The simple answer is because we are “storytelling animals,” to use Green’s term. “A hunger for stories is built into our DNA.” Or as Allison put it: “Oral storytelling is so hard wired into the way we make sense of it all and how we find the meaning in our lives.

More encouragement for us to tell our stories of how Jesus has transformed our lives.

The How of Storytelling

I was searching for some material for a course I am preparing on using story in evangelism and came across this great lecture given by Jeffrey Overstreet at the IAM Encounter2010 conference. I thought his points were very pertinent to all seeking to communicate to the wider world. He highlights some of the key misconceptions that Christians have about art and story, and clearly highlights what are some of the key elements that help a story to resonate with us

Telling Your Story

About ten years ago in New Zealand we updated our student evangelism training. One of the updates was a renaming of the testimony workshop to “Telling Your Story“. I think it is a great name, as it encapsulates what we want our testimonies to do.

However, the actual content of the training hardly changed, and if you are familiar with Campus Crusade for Christ, you will know the pattern:

  • What was my life like before I met Christ
  • How did I meet Christ
  • How did my life change after I met Christ

At the most rudimentary level this is a good start, but this pattern often doesn’t help us or our students to be able to tell their story well, which, after all, is what we want.

Two years ago I went on a training course in making short films and a large part of that course was devoted to the concept of story and how to write a good story (A good story is essential for a good film.) This training understandably borrowed a lot from film school understanding of story and scriptwriting. In it, there were five elements to a story that were identified:

  • A character
  • Who has a desire
  • Who encounters conflict
  • Building to a climax
  • And a resolution

When I encountered this idea of story I immediately thought of the application to testimonies (telling our stories). Some of the advantages to this approach to a story are:

  • It creates drama in the story

The current pattern for writing a testimony lends itself to a primary school style of story writing. If you have read a story by a primary school child you will see lots of “and then” which lets people know in what order things happened but it doesn’t help to create the drama that engages an audience.

  • It helps us to find a theme to our story

A lot of testimonies can end up as a disconnected series of events where even at the end we don’t know how some of them fit in. Looking at this structure for telling our stories can help us decide which events are really relevant to the story. It can also help when choosing a testimony to go with an evangelistic event because we can know how the events fit in to the story and whether they connect with the theme of the event.

  • It works for everyone’s stories

A lot of the time the focus of our testimonies is on the point of time when we receive Christ which can make things difficult for someone who became a Christian at a young age. “How exactly did God turn my life around at age seven?” Using the second pattern gives these people the freedom to focus on the story that God is working in their lives, the desires, problems and difficulties they have experienced.

So, what do you think? Can you see any advantages or disadvantages to telling our stories in this way?