When I was a kid, my family went to church every Sunday. The church we went to put an importance on storytelling. They would have a kids talk that covered the same topic as the sermon, and many adults commented that they got more out of the kids talk than the sermon!
The other thing that stood out was that they were just telling the stories from the Bible. They weren’t interpreting them for morals or ethics, they were telling the stories and leaving it to the listener to get out of the story what they will. As we grew, these stories stayed with us and we could interpret them as needed.
Now that I’m a storyteller myself, and a mother, I am recognising the importance of a good story and the impact a story can have to change the world.
A good story engages the audience, no matter how the story is told. The best stories are those that tell the story and don’t preach a message at the audience. Often, once a story starts preaching, that is the point it starts losing the audience. Leaving the reader or viewer (for a TV show or movie) to get what they will from the story is just as important as the story itself.
One example is my book Lizzy’s Dragon. I wrote what I felt was a good, quirky story without any particular message, other than creating a dragon with a difference. One reviewer commented that the book had a strong message about caring for pets! That wasn’t a message that I had picked up when reading the story, so I thought it was pretty cool that this reviewer picked up this message.
Messages have their place in a story, however story must be the focus. It doesn’t matter if your message is about big issues such as climate change or racism, or smaller issues such as pet care or the importance of keeping your room tidy, the story is key. If you’re not telling an engaging story, it doesn’t matter what your message is, it can get lost.
Another example that comes to mind is a teacher of one of my children said that she was determined to buy her nephew stories with female main characters. For her, the importance was on the female main character rather than finding a story her nephew would like to read that just happens to have a female main character. I know that my boys have read a lot of stories with female main characters, but for us, it was the story that was the key, not the fact the main character was female.
Telling a story is a fantastic way to get across a message and raise awareness, however, start from the point of the story first. I know that I want to raise awareness of chronic health issues, especially the ones my children have, and I have only published one book so far because I’m going from the point of view of the story first. I need to have a story that will be engaging to readers before I look at the message.
When writing a story, focus on story first and let the message reveal itself through your writing. Your readers will find your message through the adventure.
Remember: Story is key.