What is a Story, and Why Does It Matter?

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Part 6: Why Does It Matter? Thinking It Through in Review

In parts 1 thru 5, we considered the parts that make up stories, the special impact that stories can have, how the first moments of a story can grab the audience, and the valuable role of natural dialog in stories. All this thinking and question-asking has a goal: to help us continue developing our ability to adapt and create good scripts for recordings. It's easy for us to move into automatic mode in the tasks we do, without realizing it. Looking at script selection and preparation from a variety of angles can give us fresh ideas.

Here are more questions about stories to think through with your team. As you discuss them, your understanding of stories in general, and in your specific culture, will deepen. Some of these questions can be useful as you research languages your team will record.

1. What is a story?

2. Stories are one of the most potent forms of communication. Why?

3. Are there traditional forms of storytelling in your culture? Are they still used or have they faded away?

4. Is there a difference between how a true story is told in your culture, as compared to a fictional one?

5. What are main themes of your culture's traditional stories?

6. What different literary forms are found in the Bible?

7. What percentage of the Bible is stories?

8. In your opinion, why does the Bible have many stories?

9. At your church, how much of the teaching is in the form of stories as opposed to didactic teaching?

10. What is a favorite story of yours (as told in a book, movie, tv show or story from your own life)? Why do you like it?

11. Give an example of a story that affected a decision you made or changed your mind about something.

12. How does this relate to our work, especially to adapting and creating scripts?

Review your understanding of the parts of a story by thinking through and discussing the questions below. Remember: The parts have power. They separate a story from a lecture or other didactic teaching.

1. Opening or Introduction - What is its role?

2. Setting - Why do we need to establish a setting? What part does it play in the story?

3. Characters - What parts do they play in the story? Does there have to be a protagonist and an antagonist? What other roles are there, besides protagonist, antagonist?

4. Inciting moment - What is its role?

5. Conflict - Why does a story need conflict to be a good story?

6. Rising action - What is the role or rising action: for the main character, for the audience?

7. Climax - Define the climax of a story. What is its purpose?

8. Falling action - Why does a story need falling action before it reaches the conclusion?

9. Conclusion - Resolution - The End - What characteristics should the conclusion of a story have?

10. Find these parts in each of these Bible stories:

  • Abraham Sacrifices Isaac
  • Moses and the ten plagues
  • Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego and the fiery furnace
  • Daniel in the Lion's Den
  • Jesus' arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection

11. Here's an especially key question: How is the summary of a story different from the story itself? What, if anything, do you lose when you summarize, rather than tell the story?

12. And another important question, which might not have an easy answer, or may have several answers: How important is it for our messages to be interesting? Is making them interesting worth expending energy and time, or should we leave that matter totally to the Holy Spirit?

Here are a few questions and ideas to think through when you use dialog in a script:


Use your imagination to picture the people you are trying to reach with the script. Let what you have learned about them through research inform your work.

  • Their environment
  • Their lifestyle
  • The problems they face in daily life
  • Their goals, desires
  • Their fears and beliefs
  • Their style of communication

* Picture a situation where people from the group you're trying to reach would have a conversation about the topic you are presenting.

* Consider what their viewpoints and questions on that topic would be.

* Most of the time, it is best to make the situation one where it is important to the questioner to get answers or gain understanding, rather than just having a casual conversation with someone.

* Sometimes, however, it's the believer who sees the importance of the situation, and he or she tries to help the non-believer see that.

* If the conversation is between a seeker and a believer, does the questioner trust the believer's answers? If so, why?

* The questioner doesn't always have to be convinced by or agree with what the believer says.

* The questioner doesn't always have to make a decision by the end of the dialog.

What's the point of all this question-asking and detailed thinking? To provide more tools for our creative toolboxes. One tool can't do all jobs. Sometimes our scripts can be very simple; other times they need to be more sophisticated. They can take many forms, to speak to the many kinds of audiences God gives us. Even language groups living in primitive settings may have access to media that shapes their expectations toward more refined, polished, 'exciting' presentation styles. Under God's guidance, let's equip ourselves to do increasingly excellent script preparation and development. And let's take advantage of the communication-power of stories, with all the fresh possibilities they offer for sharing God's wonderful messages with a needy world.

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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