Storytelling: How to Share Stories for a Particular Audience
Continuing her series on storytelling and the Bible, author Taffeta Chime explores how to share stories for a particular audience. Other articles in this series include “Why Storytelling Is Important to the Life of a Christian,” “How to Create Good Characters,” “What Are the Conflicts in a Story?,” “What Metaphor Means,” and “Tips on Writing Stories in Layers.”
In this final part of the series on storytelling and the Bible, we need to talk about one fundamental but vital point: stories are meant to be shared. It seems almost not worth mentioning, but in fact, remembering this ought to be one of the first steps to forming a story.
When I taught English Composition to freshman university students, one of the objectives of prewriting was to use the rhetorical triangle to identify the writer’s purpose, medium, and audience. What do you want to say and why? Are you writing to persuade, to inform, to entertain? What’s the most effective way to get this message across? Will this be a poem, an essay, an oral presentation? Who needs to hear this the most, or who will be the most interested? Are you writing to a friend, a boss, a stranger? These kinds of questions and the combinations of answers drastically affect the outcome of the writing.
“Who needs to hear this the most, or who will be the most interested?”
As you write your own stories, you probably already have your purpose in mind. You have probably been following this series because you are interested in telling a different or better story to the world. Perhaps you see how more and more people are thinking less and less of the gospel, and you want to know how you can more effectively connect and build meaningful relationships that will make people wonder more about the Creator, their life meaning, and how the two intersect. You want to connect, to deepen, to serve, to encourage, to love, to free.
So, in thinking about how to do that, you likely realize you’re largely fighting an uphill battle. Especially if you are in the Western world, the name of God has been confused so badly that to many, it already leaves a bad taste in their mouth. You’ll have to start fresh, with the basics.
I’m not talking about merely inviting someone to “go to church.” Or handing them a pamphlet with passages about doctrinal questions. Or giving money and walking away. I’m talking about connecting person-to-person in one of the most humanly fundamental ways: by orally telling a story, face-to-face. We can, of course, share stories in writing as well. But there is nothing like the human connection of sharing a story face-to-face. It’s what God did all throughout His story. We are fortunate that it was written down–and written in the most amazing text there is–but let’s remember that it was originally told orally to its first audience.
“There is nothing like the human connection of sharing a story face-to-face.”
So then, you consider your audience. If you are reading this, you might be at a point of such frustration that you’re ready to shout about Jesus from the rooftops for anyone willing to listen. But in reality, in our current world of disconnect, you know that is probably a shout into the void. So, again, follow the examples of Scripture: start with those closest to you. Your family. Your friends. Your neighbors. People you see regularly. Remember to ask, who needs to hear this most, and who will be most interested?
Then think about what knowledge and experience they’re coming with. What kind of baggage are they carrying? How open are they? Do they have a relationship with Jesus already? How willing are they to listen to you? In order to answer these questions, you need to do something crucial: listen. Resist the urge to listen to respond. Just listen. Get to know them. Learn the story God is writing in their life too. Even if it seems like God’s not there, you know He already is.
“Learn the story God is writing in their life too.”
And finally, when thinking about what story to tell, you have nearly unlimited options. The good news is that most of the work has already been done for you. You have one invaluable resource that is amazingly written and ready to share: the Word of God, complete with His story from the beginning to the end. You are a part of that story, and God is crafting it as we speak.
In a lot of ways, you share your own story every day whether you know it or not, so you must remember your audience and be mindful of who is watching and listening. But in other ways, you have opportunities to more explicitly share your story of God in your life. You can apply the skills and aspects of storytelling that we have covered to share a unique story for a specific audience. How are you (or someone else) relatable to your audience? What have been the major and/or minor conflicts? What metaphors, symbols, and examples are there that you can draw from? At what level is this story, and can you make it deeper?
“You can apply the skills and aspects of storytelling that we have covered to share a unique story for a specific audience.”
Before finishing this series, I would like to give a special thank-you to a few people: David Skidmore (the youth minister where I currently worship), Steve Wedan (my college Acting and Character Development professor), Dr. Jette Halladay (my college Storytelling professor), and Pamela O’Neal (my sweet mom) helped not just to look over these articles but to serve as strong examples of people who share stories so much in their own lives. Thank you all, and thank you for letting me be a part of your God-crafted stories.