Professional Storyteller

Share a Story - Change the World

Could it be that any story, every story, has the power to not only inform but to influence? It seems that every story told touches somebody somewhere at sometime. In fact, it is probably true that every story selected by a storyteller to share is selected for a reason, no matter how innocent – at minimum because that particular story touched him or her in some way when it was heard or read. It was then decided to pass it on to others.

One of the leading scholars on human communication as narration is Walter Fisher. Fisher focused on the concept that all human communication is narrative based. “In the beginning was the word or, more accurately the logos. And in the beginning, ‘logos’ meant story, reason, rationale, conception, discourse, thought,” he said in his book Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value, and Action. “Thus all forms of human communication—from epic to architecture, from biblical narrative to statuary—came within its purview.” Professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, Fisher published his work on what he called the Narrative Paradigm in 1995. It focused on the importance of narration as a mode of human reasoning and has led to a fundamental rethinking of how people apprehend knowledge. The Narrative Paradigm is a theory…that all meaningful communication is a form of storytelling or to give a report of events…and so human beings experience and comprehend life as a series of ongoing narratives, each with their own conflicts, characters, beginnings, middles, and ends. In 1984, Fisher proposed that the way in which people explain and/or justify their behavior, whether past or future, has more to do with telling a credible story than it does with producing evidence or constructing a logical argument.

Fisher referred to humankind as homo narrans and proposed that all forms of human communication need to be seen as stories. He considered individual forms of communication as “good reasons,” that is, as values for believing or acting in certain ways. These good reasons are a type of narrative logic that all humans have naturally, forming the foundation of all human communication. Fisher said: “The narrative paradigm proposes that human beings are inherently storytellers who have a natural capacity to recognize the coherence and fidelity of stories they tell and experience. I suggest that we experience and comprehend life as a series of ongoing narratives, as conflicts, characters, beginnings, middles, and ends. The various modes of communication—all forms of symbolic action—then may be seen as stories, interpretations of things in sequences. … I propose the narrative paradigm as a philosophy of reason, value, and action. Narrative rationality is its logic. The essential components of this logic are the following. Human communication is tested against principles of probability (coherence) and fidelity (truthfulness and reliability). Probability, whether a story “hangs together,” is assessed in three ways: by its argumentative or structural coherence; by its material coherence, that is, by comparing and contrasting stories told in other discourse (a story may be internally consistent, but important facts may be omitted, counterarguments ignored, and relevant issues overlooked); and by characterological coherence. Concern for this third type of coherence is one of the key differences between the concept of narrative rationality and traditional logics….”

Could it be that story is just part of who we are and that, indeed, human communication IS narration?

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Tags: applied-storytelling, communication, homo-narrans, human-communication, narration, story, storytelling


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Comment by Steve Evans on April 22, 2008 at 2:09am
You share some really keen insights, Rivka. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, experiences and convictions. The same goes to you as well, Ilene and Dustin.

It seems we all have the same realization that part of the magic, part of the powerof story, is in the telling. That is certainly what Lord and Perry found in their discussions, research and writings: It's the dynamic of the storyteller, the story, and the audience working together that creates the transforming power, the irresistible magic, of storytelling.

Let me urge each of you to share your thoughts and insights in the group Applied Storytelling: the Power of Story. I am sure there are others who would like gain from your insights and experiences. At the same time, thanks for looking at my blog and adding your comments. Please continue to do so! Best wishes to each of you.
Comment by Ilene Evans on April 14, 2008 at 11:23am
There is something deeply satisfying in linking the imporatance of being human with our ability to shape meaning out of our experiences. I think that is what Fisher means by Narrative. Story. That story can take on many different forms - just adds to the magic. Oral, Written, Mime, Dance, Puppets. They seem to stem from the root urge to tell...The telling is the thing - in whatever form. The telling of our own story seems so connected to healing. I love the idea that thought moves and moves through sound and the body into space and into the world. That is power. Transformative power.
The current neuroscience supports the idea of a narrative drive in how we are hardwired. Cool. Very cool.
Comment by Rivka Willick on April 8, 2008 at 2:00pm
Why stop at narration? All movement, everything do and create is part of who we are. The clothes we wear communicate, the way we sit, the distance we sit from one another, the way we wear our clothes when we sit a distance from one another all communicate and therefore is all part of the human narrative.

The problem is .....this sort of thinking delutes the meaning of our words.

The oral story is unique. When the mind and the heart shut down, when walls are errected so ideas are held at bay--that's when the magic of the oral story shines. Spoken story (and music) hold keys to the heart and mind. Maybe the information is too dull, difficult, painful or dangerous for us to embrace. A well chosen and told story can enter any mind and heart. That's why every religion uses story. Stories heal, excite, entertain, educate, and can cause tremendous change, both good and bad.

I've seen the word storyteller used in just about every profession. A baker is a storyteller with dough, a builder is a storyteller with bricks, an accountant is a storyteller with numbers. Cute, but it doesn't mean much.

Storytelling is one of the oldest of all art forms. Its simply power is extraordinary. No wonder everyone wants to claim its power. But here's what I'm learning----The purest form is the most powerful; a teller performing a tale he or she knows (not memorized or read) to those who are there to listen needs no embleshing. Although everyone can tell a story--just like everyone can sing, or dance, or write-----there are some who excel and are masters. Constant work, talent, insight and passion are elements which can create our masters.

Let's recognize the power of the spoken story, and I pray that it be used for good.

The Oral



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