16 September 2012

The Power in Stories

Ann Romney wowed the Republican national convention when she told the story of her marriage to the Republican presidential candidate. MichelleObama stood up in like manner at the Democratic convention and told similar stories about the first years in her marriage to the president. More and more, politicians are frankly admitting that they are using the stories of Americans to tell thestory of America. They argue over which side these stories illustrate, but no one denies the power inherent in telling a story.

A few years ago, Ira Glass “You Tubed” an interesting 5½ minutes about story telling. He teaches us that a good storyteller has both an interesting story and an important piece of reflection concerning it. In writing family history we need to interweave these two components into our stories and make sure that they are both strong and hard-hitting. Our research brings us many anecdotes to choose from and thinking about those anecdotes while looking thoughtfully at a person’s life will bring us some insightful moments of reflection to share.

Storytelling, done well, is powerful and productive. Look at scriptural accounts. These stories and their forthcoming lessons have inspired millions. “It came to pass” soon leads to “thus we see.” In our storytelling it’s important to let the story do the telling. Too much sermonizing or moralizing will cause the reader to roll his or her eyes just as surely as a pointless anecdote. If we can write clearly enough, the point will be taken simply from the actions or inactions of the characters involved and the consequences that follow. 

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