Storytelling – what is happening in your brain?
There is, happily, a growing understanding of the significance of storytelling for good communication.
The video below explains research into brain chemistry as a response to storytelling. I’m not particularly interested, for the purposes of this post, in their observed result of people responding with donations to a project when their emotions have been touched.
But what is interesting in a wider storytelling context is that for a story – any story – to be effective, it must engage with emotions. This is surely self-evident.
Here also is a valuable explanation of storytelling: Why Stories Matter.
If you are following Downton Abbey on TV, you will know that each episode (and especially the tragic latest) engages with our emotions. The series represents a particular storytelling genre (soap), is well-written and superbly acted, and therefore believable. We feel that we know each character, and care about them.
It passes the test that poet Philip Larkin applied when judging books for the Booker Prize: “Did I believe it? Did I care?”
My wife Mary and I recently set aside time to watch the first episode of a new period TV drama. It was set within a similar time-period to Downton, based on a classic novel, and we hoped would be an equally effective drama. Except, at the end of the first episode, we could not begin to care what happened to the heroine and the other characters. They were not believable. Remotely. That was an hour of our lives we’ll not get back.
What does Downton Abbey have, that many other stories do not? I’d suggest several factors:
- Author Julian Fellowes believes in the story. He is not a self-indulgent hack writer.
- He loves his characters, even the more unsympathetic ones. None are stereotypes, and all have vices and virtues.
- He loves and respects us, the viewers.
- The actors and production team do likewise.
Christian writer Don Miller shares what has been a life-changing revelation for him: “the best writing advice I ever received.” And it is simply this: Love your reader.
If we love our readers (or viewers, or audience), we will want to learn how to tell stories that are believable and memorable, that also embed vital truths. We will want our stories to engage with their emotions, but will respect our listeners too much to manipulate those feelings.
Our brains are fearfully and wonderfully made, of course. Oxytocin is an amazing molecule. It’s the one that is released in both participants’ brains during something as simple as a handshake or hug. Those who are fearful of such simple contact (through personality, upbringing or past hurts), lose out on God’s way of emotional uplift. There are doubtless those who would rather chew off their own ear (and maybe drive 20 miles to a different church) than engage in the common practice of physically passing on peace and greetings during a church service.
We are designed to benefit from appropriate, welcome, physical touch, as well as from the emotional touch of stories. Leighton Ford has observed, “It’s been said that next to food and drink, our most basic human hunger is for storytelling.”
Check our other recent articles on storytelling.
|HELP!||How Internet Evangelism Day can help YOU and your church. Please help us: complete this short digital outreach questionnaire and get free ebook Tweeting Church.||Please also share this post on Facebook, Twitter and Google +1 using the one-click links below. You can also automatically syndicate our blog posts to your Facebook Wall (and/or your Twitter stream) in three easy steps.|
|You are welcome to use this item on your own blog as a guest blog post, or republish in any online or print newsletter. We also offer other free articles.|
|GET UPDATES BY EMAIL & TWITTER||Get our blog posts by email, two or three times a week: subscribe here or on Twitter:
|LATEST BULLETIN||Latest issue of Web Evangelism Bulletin is now online. One-click subscribe to Feedburner summary email here.|
|FREE e-book downloads – a range of free PDF books and other downloadable resources|