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What is it About Stories?

1. Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.
~ Robert McKee

2. If you don't know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don't know the stories you may be lost in life.
~ Siberian Elder

3. A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad. Life would lose it's moorings or orientation…. Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart larger.
~ Ben Okri

4. God made man because he loves stories.
~ Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlev (as quoted by Steve Sanfield)

5. To be a person is to have a story to tell.
~ Isak Dinesen

6. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. _
~ Barry Lopez, in Crow and Weasel

7. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.
~ Ursula K. LeGuin

8. The universe is made of stories, not atoms. ~ Muriel Rukeyser

9. Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.
~ Robert McKee

10. Story is far older than the art of science and psychology, and will always be the elder in the equation no matter how much time passes.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

11. Australian Aborigines say that the big stories-the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life-are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush.
~ Robert Moss, Dreamgates

12. Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale of all.
~ Hans Christian Andersen

13. Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story. Jesus did it. He called his stories 'parables'.
~ Janet Litherland

14. The master gave his teaching in parables and stories, which his disciples listened to with pleasure-and occasional frustration, for they longed for something deeper. The master was unmoved. To all their objections he would say, 'You have yet to understand that the shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story'.
~ Anthony de Mello

15. The Storyteller's Creed I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge, That myth is more potent than history, That dreams are more powerful than facts, That hope always triumphs over experience, That laughter is the only cure for grief, And I believe that love is stronger than death.
~ Robert Fulghum

16. The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.
~ Harold Goddard

17. Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.
~ Salman Rushdie

18. If you keep telling the same sad small story, you will keep living the same sad small life.
~ Jean Houston

19. Stories live in your blood and bones, follow the seasons and light candles on the darkest night-every storyteller knows she or he is also a teacher...
~ Patti Davis

20. Because there is a natural storytelling urge and ability in all human beings, even just a little nurturing of this impulse can bring about astonishing and delightful results.

~ Nancy Mellon, The Art of Storytelling

21. Stories are how we learn. The progenitors of the world's religions understood this, handing down our great myths and legends from generation to generation.
~ Bill Mooney and David Holt, The Storyteller's Guide

22. History is nothing but a series of stories, whether it be world history or family history.

~ Bill Mooney and David Holt, The Storyteller's Guide

23. A writer's brain is like a magician's hat. If you're going to get anything out of it, you have to put something in it first.
~ Louis L'Amour

24. All human beings have an innate need to hear and tell stories and to have a story to live by ... religion, whatever else it has done, has provided one of the main ways of meeting this abiding need.
~ Harvey Cox, The Seduction of the Spirit

25. Those times of depression tell you that it's either time to get out of the story you're in and move into a new story, or that you're in the right story but there's some piece of it you are not living out.
~ Carol S. Pearson

26. It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story.
~ First Nations Saying

27. I will tell you something about stories, (he said) They aren't just entertainment. Don't be fooled. They are all we have, you see, All we have to fight off illness and death.
~ Leslie Marmon Silko

28. Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.
~ John Barth

29. In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.
~ Walter Cronkite

30. When you do enough research, the story almost writes itself. Lines of development spring loose and you'll have choices galore.
~ Robert McKee

31. If you tell me, it's an essay. If you show me, it's a story.
~ Barbara Greene

32. Don't say the old lady screamed-bring her on and let her scream.
~ Mark Twain

33. When Stories nestle in the body, soul comes forth.
~ Deena Metzger

34. It's no coincidence that just at this point in our insight into our mysteriousness as human beings struggling towards compassion, we are also moving into an awakened interest in the language of myth and fairy tale. The language of logical arguments, of proofs, is the language of the limited self we know and can manipulate. But the language of parable and poetry, of storytelling, moves from the imprisoned language of the provable into the freed language of what I must, for lack of another word, continue to call faith.
~ Madeleine L'Engle

35. In today's world, we yearn so to 'understand', to conquer with our mind, but it is not in the mind that a mythic story dwells.
~ Donna Jacobs Sife

36. One lesson we can learn from pre-industrial peoples is the power of storytelling. I am struck by how important storytelling is among tribal peoples; it forms the basis of their educational systems. The Celtic peoples, for example, insisted that only the poets could be teachers. Why? I think it is because knowledge that is not passed through the heart is dangerous: it may lack wisdom; it may be a power trip; it may squelch life out of the learners. What if our educational systems were to insist that teachers be poets and storytellers and artists? What transformations would follow?
~ Mathew Fox

37. Life will go on as long as there is someone to sing, to dance, to tell stories and to listen.
~ Oren Lyons

38. Storytelling is a vaccine against war....
~ Annette Simmons

39. It is your obligation to speak things that have truth, because this is your life's work.
~ Judith Black

40. We can tell people abstract rules of thumb which we have derived from prior experiences, but it is very difficu lt for other people to learn from these. We have difficulty remembering such abstractions, but we can more easily remember a good story. Stories give life to past experience. Stories make the events in memory memorable to others and to ourselves. This is one of the reasons why people like to tell stories.
~ Roger C. Shank, from Tell Me A Story

41. Oddly enough, we come to rely upon our own stories so much that it seems that all we can tell ourselves are stories as well. …
~ Roger C. Shank, from Tell Me A Story

42. In the end all we have…are stories and methods of finding and using those stories.
~ Roger C. Shank, from Tell Me A Story

43. Is forty-two a story? Of course it is, and it isn't. It doesn't sound like a story; it's more the name of a story, so to speak. In some sense, every story is simply the name of a longer story. No one tells all the details of any story, so each story is shortened. How much shortening has to take place until there is no story left? A story shortened so that it ceases to be understood is no longer a story, but what is understandable to one person may not be understandable to another, so it is clear that story is a relative term. In any case, as long as it is understood, it remains a story. For this reason, there are some very short stories.
~ Roger C. Shank, from Tell Me A Story

44. The language of the culture also reflects the stories of the culture. One word or simple phrasal labels often describe the story adequately enough in what we have termed culturally common stories. To some extent, the stories of a culture are observable by inspecting the vocabulary of that culture. Often entire stories are embodied in one very culture-specific word. The story words unique to a culture reveal cultural differences.
~ Roger C. Shank, from Tell Me A Story

45. Their story, yours and mine -- it's what we all carry with us on this trip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them.
~ William Carlos Williams

46. We are the first generation bombarded with so many stories from so many authorities, none of which are our own. The parable of the postmodern mind is the person surrounded by a media center: three television screens in front of them giving three sets of stories; fax machines bringing in other stories; newspapers providing still more stories. In a sense, we are saturated with stories; we're saturated with points of view. But the effect of being bombarded with all of these points of view is that we don't have a point of view and we don't have a story. We lose the continuity of our experiences; we become people who are written on from the outside.
~ Sam Keen

47. Wherever a story comes from, whether it is a familiar myth or a private memory, the retelling exemplifies the making of a connection from one pattern to another: a potential translation in which narrative becomes parable and the once upon a time comes to stand for some renascent truth. This approach applies to all the incidents of everyday life: the phrase in the newspaper, the endearing or infuriating game of a toddler, the misunderstanding at the office. Our species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.
~ Mary Catherine Bateson

48. Many people don't realize the extent to which stories influence our behavior and even shape our culture. Think about how Bible stories teach the fundamentals of religion and rules of conduct. Think of the fables and parables that molded your values. Think of how stories about your national, cultural or family history have shaped your attitudes about yourself and others.
~ Lawrence Shapiro, in How to Raise a Child With a High EQ: A Parents' Guide to Emotional Intelligence

49. Storytelling is relating a tale to one or more listeners through voice and gesture. It is not the same as reading a story aloud or reciting a piece from memory or acting out a drama-though it shares common characteristics with these arts. The storyteller looks into the eyes of the audience and together they compose the tale. The storyteller begins to see and re-create, through voice and gesture, a series of mental images; the audience, from the first moment of listening, squints, stares, smiles, leans forward or falls asleep, letting the teller know whether to slow down, speed up, elaborate, or just finish. Each listener, as well as each teller, actually composes a unique set of story images derived from meanings associated with words, gestures, and sounds. The experience can be profound, exercising the thinking and touching emotions of both teller and listener. ~ The National Council of Teachers of English in support of storytelling in the academic classroom

50. We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say-and to feel- 'Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.' You're not as alone as you thought.
~ John Steinbeck

51. The answer is always in the entire story, not a piece of it.
~ Jim Harrison

52. Sacred stories are those of transformation, they are stories that draw us closer to what I call the Lord Within The Heart, and they help us to see our connection to all things. There's a saying in the Jewish tradition that the shortest distance between [a hu]man and God is through a story. So if storytelling is a journey, sacred storytelling is a pilgrimage-a pilgrimage to a place called Hope.
~ Andy Fraenkel

53. There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.
~ Maya Angelou

54. A story is told as much by silence as by speech.
~ Susan Griffin

55. Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.
~ Robert McKee

56. It's not the college degree that makes a writer. The great thing is to have a story to tell.
~ Polly Adler

57. A song ain't nothin' in the world but a story just wrote with music to it.
~ Hank Williams, Sr.

58. Stories set the inner life into motion, and this is particularly important where the inner life is frightened, wedged, or cornered. Story greases the hoists and pulleys, it causes adrenaline to surge, shows us the way out, down, or up, and for our trouble, cuts for us fine wide doors in previously blank walls, openings that lead to the dreamland, that lead to love and learning, that lead us back to our own real lives as knowing wildish women.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

59. It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.
~ Italo Calvino

60. ... story is a medicine which strengthens and arights the individual and the community.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

61. People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don't have a middle or an end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.
~ Steven Spielberg

62. The story is always better than your ability to write it. My belief about this is that if you ever get to the point that you think you've done a story justice, you're in the wrong business.
~ Robin McKinley

63. Rule one of reading other people's stories is that whenever you say 'well that's not convincing' the author tells you that's the bit that wasn't made up. This is because real life is under no obligation to be convincing.
~ Neil Gaiman

64. Why was Solomon recognized as the wisest man in the world? Because he knew more stories (proverbs) than anyone else. Scratch the surface in a typical boardroom and we're all just cavemen with briefcases, hungry for a wise person to tell us stories.
~ Alan Kay, vice president at Walt Disney

65. We want a story that starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax.
~ Samuel Goldwyn

66. People are hungry for stories. It's part of our very being. Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another.
~ Studs Terkel

67. Writing a story or a novel is one way of discovering sequence in experience, of stumbling upon cause and effect in the happenings of a writer's own life.
~Eudora Welty

68. Increasingly, I realized that I could not merely tell his story. Rather, I would have to tell my story about him.
~Ronald Steel

69. Stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader's arsenal.
~ Howard Gardner, Harvard University

70. The story was the bushman's most sacred possession. These people knew what we do not; that without a story you have not got a nation, or culture, or civilization. Without a story of your own, you haven't got a life of your own.
~ Laurens Van der Post

71. Maybe there are only three kinds of stories: those we live, those we tell, and those that help our souls fly upwards to a greater life.
~ Ben Okri

Learn To Tell A Good Story

Updated May 26, 2012, © 2012 Lindagail Campbell


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