What is a Story, and Why Does It Matter?

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Part 4: More Ideas on Introductions that Grab Listeners

The first few moments of your recordings really count. There are many ways to create interesting introductions which will grab your listener's attention and lead them into the stories and other content that follows:

1. QUESTIONS. Your message can begin with questions.

a. Questions from the Narrator to the Listeners:

The narrator of the story asks the audience questions that will draw them in because the questions relate to their lives, too. The story answers some of those questions. (That's why you chose this story.) This could include presenting a difficult situation and asking the listeners to think about what they would do in that situation. The narrator speaks to the listeners as a caring friend, and might even share some of his/her own struggles and questions. Example: Suppose your content was based on the story of Joseph, including when Joseph's brothers betray him (Genesis 37) Your presentation could begin with: "Have you ever felt like life was against you, or like people you trusted betrayed you instead? It's a painful experience that many of us have had. Can we overcome the pain and gain something good from it? A man named Joseph found that he could. In fact, he discovered that hard experiences made him a stronger, better person."

b. Questions from the main character in the story to the listener (or talking to himself/herself, or to God)

If the content following the introduction is a Bible story, allow the main character in the story to ask questions to himself/herself, God, or the audience because of the struggles he or she faces in the story. (You choose this because you think it is a struggle that your audience can relate to.) Example: "If I don't bow down, it could cost me my life. All I have to do is bow to the statue. The king has commanded it. I do it. Simple. But if I bow, how could I live with myself? God, what would you think of me? Are you willing to let me die?" (Story of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego)

c. Questions that someone else in the story would ask about the main character.

This type of question lets your audience 'watch' the main character through the eyes of another character and try to understand the main character's actions and motivations. This observer tells the story.

Example: "Why would he spend time with bad people? Doesn't he care what we think about him? After all, we're the people with the power and influence. "(Pharisee observing Jesus)

2. "SET THE STAGE" (Describe the setting and start the story.)

Another interesting introduction is to have the Narrator describe the scene where the story starts for the listener. (This scene is not always at the beginning of the character's story.) The description should make clear pictures in the minds of the listeners and make them want to know what will happen next. It's not just a description of the setting, but also of something that is happening. Something dramatic or mysterious that will make the listener think, "What is going on here? Why is this happening?"

Example: From a distance the stone well looked like a lonely pile of rocks in the desert. It cast a long shadow in the setting sun. People had obviously been there earlier in the day; the footprints of men and camels marked the sand all around it. In the distance, smoke curled up from a small oasis of trees. Travelers were cooking their evening meal. All was quiet. Then a despairing whisper rose out of the well. "Won't anyone help me?" (Joseph's brothers betray him, Genesis 37)

3. INTERESTING BACKGROUND INFORMATION

You can begin by the Narrator giving background information that will interest your listeners - something that relates to their lives, work, or environment - and ties into the story that follows.

Example: When our sons marry and bring their bride into the family, what do we mothers hope for? We want a daughter-in-law who shows honor and fits smoothy in with the rest of us. If she is cooperative and does her part of the household work, we are satisfied. But if she truly loves us, well, we have found a real treasure. Long ago, a woman named Naomi discovered that she had just such a daughter-in-law. (Ruth and Naomi).

4. INTRODUCE THE MAIN CHARACTER IN A SURPRISING OR MYSTERIOUS WAY

The main character says something that surprises or puzzles the listeners and makes them want to know more. The character might be speaking directly to the audience or to self, someone else, or God.

Example: I really despised the people who called themselves disciples of Jesus. They made me furious! They dared to say that Jesus was God himself. What blasphemy! I could not allow them to go on spreading their false, poisonous beliefs. I determined to do anything I could to stop them - arrest them, torture them, even kill them. But one day - in a flash - that changed completely. (Paul) Paul goes on to tell the story.

5. And MORE...

There are still more creative ways to begin the message and draw your audience in: dialogs (which we've dealt with a bit), dramatizations, short testimonies, catchy songs, poems...

How can you decide what approach to take to the Introduction?

Remember your target audience: age, education-level, interests, concerns. Remember your goal: What, specifically, are you trying to accomplish with this recording? Be prayerful and creative. Jesus has made us fishers of men. There's more than one way to catch people's interest. The first few moments really count.

Once you've caught your listeners' attention, you need to hold it throughout the entire recording. As mentioned, dialogs are one effective way, though not the only way. Next...more tips on creating good dialog, in Part 5: Dialog - A Great Tool to Help Tell a Story.

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What is a Story, and Why Does It Matter? - A series of articles by Clair Rulison on the role of stories in GRN scripts