If you are not familiar, you should visit Ohio State’s Project Narrative page. I like the framework the OSU Project Narrative team provides for narrative theory. They say:
“Narrative theory starts from the assumption that narrative is a basic human strategy for coming to terms with fundamental elements of our experience, such as time, process, and change, and it proceeds from this assumption to study the distinctive nature of narrative and its various structures, elements, uses, and effects.”
Practically, what does this mean? We use narrative to decipher our world and, as such, narrative can be used to make decisions, impact change, or influence others. Narrative is a basic human strategy. I love this! Storytelling is not new. In fact, it has been around for centuries (see research regarding cave paintings…). But, if narrative is a basic human strategy, if we think, and live, in “story”, wouldn’t we assume its importance in a digital age with generations (like Millennials and Gen Z) who want to not only survive their current existence, but become part of the macro reality?
In my world, the communication world, narrative can be useful for analyzing the human condition. Walter Fisher coined the term (and theory) Narrative Paradigm. Fisher believes that all meaningful communication is in the form of storytelling. Here’s how communicationtheory.org defines narrative:
Narrative is any verbal and nonverbal interpretation which is arranged logically to generate a meaning. This communication process is influenced by the experiences and other factors from the past. The concept upholds the idea that communication happens between a narrator and the listener in the form of a story. The story includes the events that the narrator wants to communicate with the listener and does not fit in a single category.
This process, then, positions speaker as story teller and listener as story hearer. Simple enough…right? But, what separates a memorable story from story filler? That is the problem. We are surrounded by information, but content should be memorable, lively, and it should draw us in! So, it doesn’t matter what your role, you should approach your communicative measures with a story in mind to draw in your readers, your students and your customers.