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November 30, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Quotes on Story and Storytelling by Writers, Thinkers, and Social Innovators

“Today everyone, whether they know it or not, is in the emotional transportation business. More and more, success is won by creating compelling stories that have the power to move people to action. Simply put, if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.” -Peter Guber

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

J.K. Rowling

“Story is a yearning meeting an obstacle.”

Robert Olen Butler

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

Rudyard Kipling

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”

Brandon Sanderson

“There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. The reader of today looks for this motion, and rightly so, but what he has forgotten is the cost of it. His sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether, and so he has forgotten the price of restoration. When he reads a novel, he wants either his sense tormented or his spirits raised. He wants to be transported, instantly, either to mock damnation or a mock innocence.”

Flannery O’Connor

“Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known (and have told us again and again): books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.”

Umberto Eco

“Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream–making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams…”

Joseph Conrad

“A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. Only then can he accept wonders.”

John Steinbeck

“A writer is a dangerous friend. Everything you say, all of your life and experience, is fodder for our writing. We mean you no harm, but what you know and what you’ve done is unavoidably fascinating to us. Being friends with a writer is a bit like trying to keep a bear as a pet. They’re wonderful, friendly creatures, but they play rough and they don’t know their own strength or remember that they have claws. Choose the stories you tell to your writer friends carefully.”

Randy Murray

“Laugh and cry and tell stories. Sad stories about bodies stolen, bodies no longer here. Enraging stories about the false images, devastating lies, untold violence. Bold, brash stories about reclaiming our bodies and changing the world.”

Eli Clare

“When we want mood experiences, we go to concerts or museums. When we want meaningful emotional experience, we go to the storyteller.”

Robert McKee

“Novels and stories are renderings of life; they can not only keep us company, but admonish us, point us in new directions, or give us courage to stay a given course.”

Robert Coles

“I truly believe that people are looking for stories that really mean something–stories that are redemptive, inspiring, and bigger than an individual.”

Scott Harrison

“Whoever tells the best story shapes the culture.”

Erwin McManus

“That is the power of a good story. It can encourage you, it can make you laugh, it can bring you joy. It will make you think, it will tap innto your hidden emotions, and it can make you cry. The power of a story can also bring about healing, give you peace, and change your life!”

Jeff Dixon

“I believe in all human societies there is a desire to love and be loved, to experience the full fierceness of human emotion, and to make a measure of the sacred part of one’s life. Wherever I’ve traveled–Kenya, Chile, Australia, Japan–I’ve found the most dependable way to preserve these possibilities is to be reminded of them in stories. Stories do not give instruction, they do not explain how to love a companion or how to find God. They offer, instead, patterns of sound and association, of event and image. Suspended as listeners and readers in these patterns,we might reimagine our lives. It is through story that we embrace the great breadth of memory, that we can distinguish what is true, and that we may glimpse, at least occasionally, how to live without despair in the midst of the horror that dogs and unhinges us.”

Barry Lopez

“Human beings across every culture I know about require such stories, stories with cool winds and wood smoke. They speak to something deep within us, the capacity to conceptualize, objectify and find patterns, thereby to create the flow of events and perceptions that find perfect expression in fiction. We are built this way, we create stories by reflex, unstoppably. But this elegant system really works best when the elements of the emerging story, whether is is being written or being read, are taken as literal fact. Almost always, to respond to the particulars of the fantastic as if they were metaphorical or allegorical is to drain them of vitality.”

Peter Straub

“When telling the story of your life, it is of great value to recognize and focus on the details that reveal or inspire an empowered unfolding of your being. Much like rewriting your own DNA, every aspect of your life and growth will emanate from the building blocks of your history—however you choose to tell it. This is not to suggest that you should deny or bury your mistakes, traumas or misfortunes, but rather, recognize and reveal them within an empowered context of a bigger picture.”

Scott Edmund Miller

“…required for good fiction: character, conflict, change through time. And if you’re really blessed, you get resolution. But life doesn’t usually work out that way.”

Ted Conover

“Story is metaphor for life and life is lived in time.”

Robert McKee

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

Robert McKee

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