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Norwich Speakers Club​

'What's your story?'

“Hahaha do you remember the time when…”

“Ahhh it's just like the time when….”

“Ah come here you guys and listen to this, it’s so…”

I’m going to talk to you about stories. What they are, what purpose do they have, and how are they put together?

Other people are our greatest sense of uncertainty in the world. When routine breaks down guidelines are unclear, we cannot work through the situation on autopilot. We become present and make decisions - we become agents of our life.

We tell stories to make a point and evoke a response. Success in this regard is in the felt understanding of the story, thus stories teach us how to manage our emotions when challenged. How to be courageous, keep cool, and trust our imagination. Rather than provide the specific tactics to use in any one given case, we experience the point of the story and feel hope. If we are hopeful, curiosity helps us to explore novel ways to learn, problem solve and initiate action.

Stories trigger presuppositions and past associations in the listener, it connects to assumptions we have about ourselves and the world which helps us to really experience the story.

When the details of a story are stated explicitly, the facts and figures are presented to us, but require little imagination, the story is predictable, boring, two-dimensional.

Yet when we are taken through a descriptive journey of specific moments, we get a view of the world through the filter of the protagonist, not as the world really is. This gives us the time and space for our imaginations to wrap around and in between the storyline and create a very personalised experience.

This only works if we can identify with a character. It’s through our empathetic identification with a protagonist, we experience the emotional content of the story. Technically speaking stories are experiential and their content becomes a story for us via the mirror neurons in our brain.

Stories pique our interest because the moral of a story connects to the heart. This is how we learn through stories. We experience what the story can teach our hearts, not just our heads.

How is a story put together?

There is a character, a challenge, a choice, and outcome.

There are two modes of thought in a story. One is logical and scientific. The second is descriptive and imaginative. According to Bruner, stories must construct two landscapes simultaneously.

One is of action. Agent intention goal situation, instrument, which is like the story grammar.

The other is a landscape of consciousness, what those involved in the action think, feel, or do or do not know, think or feel.

Stories involve a plight, into which characters have fallen into as a result of intentions that have gone awry due to the circumstances, or the character of the characters. These interact to yield a structure where there is a beginning, development, and sense of ending.

The story is the masterpiece of numerous smaller shifts and changes in direction, which combine together to create the effect where at the end, the shift is absolute and irreversible. There is a conclusion.

The next time you’re reading or listening to a story. I’ll invite you to ask, what is this story teaching your head, and what is it teaching your heart.

Danny Greeves

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