Two Elements of Great Story Telling

1. What to tell:  Something fresh, unexpected, funny, moving, unusual, but at the same time something that expresses a commonality of the human experience.  Our stories must be “human sized” so listeners can see themselves in them.  Preachers are guilty as charged of telling superhuman (super Christian?) stories that communicate to people, “you’re not good enough, so don’t bother trying.”  We can also be guilty of finding stories that just don’t move people because they don’t matter.  I’m struck by Fred Craddock’s promise to his congregation that, to the best of his ability, he would only preach sermons that matter and this involves telling stories that are surprising and funny yes, but always, always, always capturing the common human experience.

Find exactly human sized stories, which leads to number two.

2. How to tell it: This is actually more difficult than finding a good story.  Crafting it well all comes down to editing and timing.  Tell it well.  What is the essence of the story?  How can I tell it to put people in the room with the characters?  Where is an appropriate place for tension and/or humor?  Often times our stories don’t move people because we don’t spend enough time crafting how to tell them.

Want to hear some examples?  Here are two:

This one is 4 minutes.  I promise you’ve probably never heard of such a situation, yet, having never experienced it, you’ll find yourself in it.  Click here for this StoryCorp human sized story told well.

And then come back and listen to the first 5 minutes of this story.

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