“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” —Muriel Rukeyser
Once upon a time…
… in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…
… a young shepherd boy stood before the giant with only a sling.
… a starship set out to boldly go where no man had gone before.
… four reptiles stumbled upon green ooze in the sewers of New York.
… a special child was discovered in the town of Smallville.
… a one-legged cook performed mutiny aboard a ship.
… a hairy-footed Halfling discovered a magical ring.
I’m guessing you could identify most of the stories above just by the single phrase. Why? Because stories have power. Stories resonate deep within us. Our minds will cling to few things as resiliently as a well-told story. They tug at our emotions, enlighten our insights, and offer guidance to our hands and feet. In short: Stories Matter.
A story can be told in a cornucopia of languages—yet the act of storytelling is a universal rite. Cave art can be attributed to every civilization on every continent at the same point in their cultural development. The reality of the pictorial stories declares a simple truth: We do not learn to tell stories—storytelling is encoded into our very DNA. Storytelling is part of being human.
We must teach children mathematics and logic—but we need only cultivate imagination. Humanity has always understood the world through story. Simone Weil once said, “Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.” Should this surprise? We are, after all, created in the image of the Great Storyteller.
When God orchestrated the holy Scriptures to offer guidance, He did so primarily through story. A Book intended for all cultures was written in a language all cultures could understand and value—the language of story. Over 60% of the Bible is narrative. Often lost in the clutter of systematics is that the Bible reads less like an instruction manual and more like a New York Times best-selling thriller. No wonder the Bible is the most plagiarized book in history.
So let’s put away this nonsense about stories being a trivial child’s fancy. We do not outgrow stories any more than we outgrow being human. Stories are, and will always be, an essential part of the human equation. We understand the world and our place in it through the lens of story. Not only that, but we are active characters in an epic, continually unfolding story being told each new day. As Hans Christian Andersen once said, “Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale of all.”
I hope to see you all on March 24–25 at Write2Ignite 2017. I’ll be giving a keynote talk on the power of Story and leading some breakout sessions on writing fantasy fiction and overcoming writer’s block (it is possible, trust me!). Come, and let’s learn from each other how to better tell the stories that God has given us—because stories truly do matter.
Daniel Blackaby is a fifth-generation author and the grandson of Henry Blackaby (author of the best-selling Experiencing God Bible study). After publishing his first book as a 23-year-old college student, Daniel has gone on to write several award-winning books in both fiction and non-fiction. His work includes the YA fantasy trilogy The Lost City Chronicles and non-fiction When Worlds Collide: Stepping Up and Standing Out in an Anti-God Culture and 7 Steps to Knowing, Doing, and Experiencing the Will of God for Teens. Check him out at DanielBlackaby.com and on Facebook.