Stop telling stories as narratives

Storytelling is a deeply human experience. It is what binds us all together in our relationships and even though the ages. In this digital age we have feared the ancient art of storytelling will somehow lost as we now gather around our individual screens and "plug into the matrix". 

It is difficult to imagine a world where there are humans and no stories or storytellers. What is much easier to imagine is a world where humans tell stories as a narrative and thus, in some sense, loose the "art" of storytelling. 

Semantics aside, there is very real difference when you hear someone tell you a story and when you hear someone tell you a narrative. Narratives give us times and dates. They tell the sequence of events that happen. Narratives are what boring history teachers tell us in school. We are tested on narratives and narratives can be measured and assessed. Narratives can actually be quickly created and even distilled to a simple formula:

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
— The Pixar narrative formula

When we read a script there is a "narrator" part that is there to pull the story along, but as important as narration is to a story, the narrative is not the story. The story is something different. The story is the art, the discipline the practice of capturing people's imagination and immerse them into a reality they can experience with their senses.

If you want to hear storytelling at some of it's best, check out The Moth. If you want to experience narrative there is this classic narrative telling in the middle of a classic story:

Historically, preachers are storytellers. In my time being in the Church, I have experienced most preachers as narrators. We give dissertations on "orthodox" belief, give three points and a poem, talk about the history of the bible as a series of events, etc. Every now and again, preachers may use a story as an "illustration" or an "example, but the sermon itself is a narrative. Story is thought of as the sideshow to the main event of the sermon. 

One way to quickly assess if you are hearing a narrative or a story is by listening to the first line. If you hear something like, "My call to ministry began when I was at church camp at the age of seventeen." That is a narrative. Chances are the rest of what is shared will be a list of dates and events that happened on those dates, like a Sportscenter Top Ten. If you are hearing a glorified list, you are not hearing a story. That is narrative. 

However, if the opening line is something like, "I never felt I was called to ministry, until I experienced being so hungry I ate food from a dumpster." That is the makings of a story. 

I do not fear storytelling will vanish, I fear storytelling will be co-oped by narrative.