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What is a story?

I just came accross this and thought it was brilliant.

It’s from this book.

The Magic of Metaphor: 77 Stores for Teachers, Trainers & Thinkers, by Nick Owen. The title says it all really.

Here it is:

Every story creates its own highly contextualised world.

And every story combines an inner logic and narrative sequence expressed through words (left brain preference) together with aspects of creativity, cohesion and pattern forming expressed through tone and emotion (right brain preference). In this way both hemispheres of our intellectual brain – the neo-cortex – are stimulated.

These factors considerably contribute to our understanding of the following: the attraction of stories as meaning-carrying vehicles, the memorability of stories, and the appeal of stories to different ages, cultures, and information-processing styles.

At a deeper level, stories are archetypes. Stories, metaphors and myths carry the history, the culture, the values, and the customs of the people.

They are a form of social glue that serves to entertain, instruct and challenge the listener or reader. And because they strike deep chords in shared communal experience, they operate at both conscious and unconscious levels, conveying “messages” directly and indirectly.

And it is the connection with the unconscious that challenges and disturbs our comfortable sense of self and identity, our programmed behaviours, our over habituated maps of the world. Or alternatively, confirms them.

Stories also operate through time and space. A biblical parable, a Zen koan, or a Sufi anecdote can each affect powerfully contemporary values, behaviours and context. Stories connect the past with the present and project both past and present into the future.

Connecting between times and contexts, between ideas and concepts, between behaviours and values, stories enable listeners to review and anticipate thought and action.

A useful contemporay illustration of this is the TV soap opera. Every episode ends at an unresolved moment of crisis, opening a loop in the viewer’s brain. Brains are meaning making organisations and search for completion so that the loop can be closed. The viewer reviews all the information offered in the present and preceding episodes in order to work out possible future outcomes. The soap opera director has created response-ability. The heightened anticipation will guarantee the audience fro the next episode so the loop can be closed.

Without the closing of loops, however, you don’ have a story. Just a sequence of discrete and unrelated facts.


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