A good story can broaden our imaginations, our sense of wonder, and excitement. Storytelling is an excellent way to teach truths and encourage critical thinking and analysis that will remain with individuals far longer than what they learn in some classrooms.
Storytelling is a bridge between education and entertainment.
If I handed you a college textbook about military leadership and strategy, chances are you wouldn’t be too excited about it.
On the other hand if I gave you Ender’s Game, a marvelous Sci-Fi novel, filled with page-turning battles, compelling characters, and a message of tolerance, love, and understanding, you may be inclined to read. Then you may be surprised to know Ender’s Game is recommended reading for members of the U.S. Marine Corps precisely for the military leadership and strategy contained in its pages.
Good storytelling lets you take something from “boring” to “compelling.”
And it’s not just found in novels.
Take Marvel Comics’ “Civil War” Event for example. Anywhere you look in the media you’ll find hot debates on controversial issues. Out of those you know who engage in such debates, how many of them actively take a look at the other side? Do they understand what repercussions could come from a certain outcome? What about the repercussions from those? Were they inflamed from one event and decided to jump on the bandwagon or were they already educated about the issue and events surrounding it? Do they think what it would mean if they were wrong?
Marvel’s “Civil War” and the Tie-Ins (especially Frontline) brilliantly illustrate a building issue, the things that could set people off, the politics behind certain decisions, the consequences, further consequences, and how all of it ripples out across society from top to bottom.
Sure, it’s a hypothetical situation, but one that is grossly founded in real world issues and debates.
One thing I absolutely loved from “Civil War” is the issues weren’t cut-and-dry, a mistake a lot of people make in the real world. Like two puzzle pieces, they interlock and give way to each other and aren’t complete without more information.
The writers showed how each side had very good reasons for doing what they did and how they tried to work together, understand, and compromise. Just because they had a differing opinion didn’t mean they hated each other – and this is explored to great degree during the event.
Moving on to different medium, great stories can be found in videogames.
Just, hear me out on this.
Nintendo’s Golden Sun Series is one of my favorites out there – I’d be absolutely beside myself if there was an official novelization.
WARNING: Basic plot spoilers (scroll to next bold line.)
In the first game you’re manipulated into getting “Elemental Stars” for the antagonists, who would then use the Stars to relight the Elemental Lighthouses, thus bringing Alchemy, a destructive force, back into the world. Afterward you go on your journey to stop the lighthouses from being lit in an attempt to save your world – all the while thinking the antagonists are evil and agents of chaos.
The second game tells a much different story. Instead of following the protagonist’s group from the first game, you follow the antagonists – trying to relight the lighthouses before others can stop you. As the game progresses you learn that the world is dying and that alchemy, while a destructive force if used incorrectly, was stopping the world from crumbling to pieces. The antagonists from the first game are from a village literally on the edge of oblivion, because of the shrinking, dying world, were sent to try and save it.
END OF SPOILERS
The narrative is very compelling as it explores the deep inner workings of the protagonists and antagonists and interaction between characters is memorable and fluid.
To sum up the series I’ll use a quote by Faramir from the Lord of the Rings films:
“The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he comes from, and if he really was evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home, and would he not rather have stayed there… in peace?”
Great stories can be found in many forms, and while I only addressed a few here, I encourage you to be open to others, such as TV shows, films, or plays.
Good storytelling can help others look at things differently, understand the why of certain things, and encourage the application of what is taught. The stories that have stood out to me the most and have molded me are the ones that made me think.
As a storyteller you have a unique opportunity to teach and influence in very memorable ways.
You can help others see the importance of education and application.