The Power of Story

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of story.  I once read a column where the author basically said he who controls the narrative wins.  That is, once a “story” is in the publics’ mind, no amount of facts can erase it.

That particular columnist was talking about politics and pr spin, but when you think about it, the theory applies to everything.  (Heck, you don’t have to look any further than the average Facebook feed to find examples.)  I was reminded again just how powerful story can be this weekend.  Last weekend, several St. Louis Rams players walked on the field with their hands up in protest of the Ferguson decision.  They were publically criticized for the gesture because “a mountain of evidence” proved Michael Brown in fact, did not have his hands up.

Now, I am I trying to start a Ferguson debate.  That’s not the point of this blog.  (So please don’t flame my comment section.)  I’m simply using this example because it shows how powerful a story can be.  At this point in time, whether Michael Brown had his hands up or not is irrelevant.  In fact, a year from now, the particulars of the Ferguson case will have faded from memory.  But, what won’t have faded is the bigger story: Minorities suffer persecution at the hands of the police.

That’s because story transcends facts. Story always will because story in some way or form touches us emotionally.  It always has, from the very first time a man told a story about someone dying after they ate the wrong berries.  To paraphrase Lisa Cron, author of WIRED FOR STORY, stories are how we learn.

All this makes me realize just how important it is for those of us who work with words to be as authentic as possible.  Okay, sure – on the surface, a romance novel doesn’t seem all that important – certainly not as important as something like Michael Brown’s death – but we deal with issues as much as the next person.  I’ve written about sexual assault, post traumatic stress syndrome, and spousal abuse.  I’ve read romances that dealt with mental illness and drug abuse.  I have no doubt some wonderful romance writer out there is already crafting a love story that touches upon the question of social justice.  The care with which we present these issues is as important as the happy endings. 

Because fiction, non-fiction, genre or literature – our words can have lasting influence on our readers.

Till next week – take care!


PS: On a much, MUCH lighter note – don’t forget to stop by the Penny Watson Holiday Bash at the Residence Inn in Needham on December 6th.

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