Storytelling 101

Here’s another great blog on the structure and power of storytelling.


Are stories needed in the business world?

I’ve always been fascinated by the use of storytelling in the business world.  Why?  Because it’s so rare!

Having run that corporate race for 16 years, I have seen my share of really boring presentations and marketing material.  If you’re trying to sell sleeping aids, then by all means, present the way you’ve always presented.

But today’s consumers are all about stories.  That’s why I found this post on PresentationZen with Robert McKee (master storyteller) quite interesting.


Telling Stories

When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people…

    Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
    Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,
    Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.”
Mark 4:11, The Message

The Power of the Parable

Think for a moment about Paul’s missionary strategy:

“I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with those who follow the Jewish laws, I do the same, even though I am not subject to the law, so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. But I do not discard the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are oppressed, I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

How should Christians tell stories?
How do they make movies?
How do they compete for the attention of mainstream America?

“Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away” (1 Corinthians 7:31).

We should leverage as much of the creativity and flow of this culture as possible without becoming attached to it. We should be watching these highly rated shows and find out what draws people to view them. Is it the drama, the production value, the stars, the stories? What is the appeal?

Fictional parables can be a powerful tool for reaching the lost. Jesus “only taught with parables” when speaking to the public: “In his public teaching [Jesus] taught only with parables, but afterward when he was alone with his disciples, he explained the meaning to them” (Mark 4:34).

I believe it’s detrimental how Christian producers and writers mix fiction with non-fiction. It completely disrupts the “suspension of disbelief”, and the lost viewer is left questioning what’s real and what’s not.

For example, Johnny is lost and his life spirals out of control. When he hits rock bottom, he gives his heart to Christ and his life is changed.

That’s not an effective way to tell a Christian story. What’s real? What fiction? Is it all fiction (including the Christianity), or just some of it? I believe that’s why Jesus’ parables were about kings and landowners, sons and daughters, mustard seeds and vineyards. Even Jesus didn’t mix truth and fiction in his storytelling. Why should we?