The value of a story

How often have you heard …

“Have you heard that … ?”

“Don’t forget the old saying: …”

“Did you hear the one about … ?”

The need to pass on “the one about …” is based on the urge to share a good story. This happens with jokes, mythical tales and real life stories. So why is that? What is it about a good story that  is  “valuable”? We will return to this question.

Aspects of storytelling

Recently Trey Pennington has written posts about many aspects of storytelling.

One of his posts passes on guidance on the nature of the stories that we tell. There are stories on “why am I here?”, “I know what you are thinking” and several other types of story. This is helpful for anyone looking for stories to tell. Its categorisation of stories into types not only helps to discover more stories and to structure them, but also to ring the changes between different types of story.

Another post emphasises the need to provide content which is valuable to readers or listeners. By encouraging consideration of the value provided by storytelling process from the perspective of the reader or listener, this post is advocating a demand-driven approach to communication of value in the story “supply chain”. This is reminiscent of “Lean” approaches to industrial processes, which are based on “flow” of value and “pull”-based communication.

So what is the value of a story?

Getting back to that question: perhaps it identifies yet another facet. Maybe the question can be answered by a combination of these two types of approach. What if we were to categorise stories based, not on the type of the story’s source, but on the type of value to the reader or listener.

Some stories are reassuring, others are frightening. Some stories are exciting, others are calming. There are stories that make us feel bolder, and others that make us laugh. There are sad stories and happy stories. The list goes on. These are descriptions of the type of value that people get from stories.

By understanding the value that each reader might gain from each story, we are likely to be more able to select stories on purpose. So whether storytelling is for entertainment or for more prosaic purposes, it is worthwhile to understand its value.

Wish I was there!

All this talk about stories convinces me that much of what we do (and most of what I am trying to do at the moment) is, fundamentally, storytelling. I do wish I could be at the Social Story conference in Greenville on Friday; but it was not to be.

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