Monday, May 21, 2007

The Growing Influence of Story?

(For those looking for this month’s CSFF Tour, I invite you to return tomorrow when I’ll be posting on it.)


A long fancy word, but with really one basic meaning: how people perceive the world and determine truth is changing.

Once knowledge, science, and reason were the supreme guide to truth. But no longer. In the eyes of my generation and the ones following, these things have failed to make the world a better place, so how can they lead to truth? Besides, the amount of information is too vast to sort through; science makes more questions than it answers; and reason—how can you reason when you don’t have all the facts and the volume of information makes it impossible to find all the facts, and are those “facts” truly facts or someone’s interpretation of miscellaneous data?

No, the post-modern generation seeks an easier and less disputable path to truth—the emotions. If something deeply moves us and our gut says it’s true, then it must be.

What does this have to do with stories?

Quite a bit: The whole point of story is to create a Powerful Emotional Experience, as novelist and teacher Randy Ingermanson would put it. We don’t write to teach a lesson or influence the reader. Not primarily. We write to evoke emotions.

So if the post-modern generation seeks truth in the emotional, could it be that excellent filmmakers and novelists are the next generation of frontline “evangelists” and story our greatest weapon?

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds,
Chawna Schroeder


Becky said...

Chawna, I read a book some years ago that changed the way I look at communication. Essentially, the premise was, We understand best when our emotions and our intellect are both engaged.

This was a non-fiction book primarily written to help men and women communicate with each other. The author used the Biblical account of Nathan confronting David with a story as the model for our communication.

That really stuck with me and is one of the reasons I became a novelist.

However, I've seen this trend away from absolute truth and even a call among Christian writers away from purposeful themes that is troubling.

What happens if emotion is all we give readers is much like a rollercoaster ride--thrilling while we're on it but completely forgotten when we get on the next ride and certainly not life-changing.

I think Christian writers can do better.

Thanks for the though-provoking post!


Chawna Schroeder said...

Dear Becky,

Thanks for your clarifying comment. I fully agree with you that the best communication engages both the heart and the mind and never intended to imply otherwise!

What I wanted to show is that perhaps unlike never before, we novelists may hold the key--the ability to engage the emotions like few other professions can--for connecting with this generation and conveying the Truth to them.

And as a writer who wonders what impact my "silly little stories" could ever have, I find this thought very comforting.


Becky said...

we novelists may hold the key--the ability to engage the emotions like few other professions can--for connecting with this generation and conveying the Truth to them.

I couldn't agree with you more, Chawna. Actually, I think stories have always had that impact, but for a while, we--western society--forgot. Too busy developing the theory of evolution and the A-bomb, I guess.

Seriously, I think Jesus chose parables as one means of communicating with the people of His day in part because of the power of story.