What’s the story?

Mar 8, 2012 | Writing A Book

People filed slowly back into the room after lunch and sluggishly took their seats. The room was warm. The air was still. Soon heads were nodding as the presenter droned on. Then he turned off the projector.

“Let me tell you a story,” the presenter said.

As he launched into his tale, you could see heads come up and backs straighten. People began to pay attention.

Stories have been our favorite way to communicate since we first cobbled language together. We use them to make sense of complex situations. They help us remember important things. We even tell stories for fun.

That’s why stories should be the core of your book. It’s the stories we love.

Statistics are great. We’ll write those down. Your important points should be stated, but they’re hard to remember without stories to help. People remember your stories. Let me tell you one of mine.

I was in Phoenix, about ten years ago, speaking to a business audience. After the speech there was the usual cluster of people around me, but as they drained away, I noticed an older woman standing off to the side, obviously waiting for something. She wasn’t dressed like anyone else in the hall, and I idly wondered what she was doing there.

When the last well-wisher had gone, I turned to pack up my things. The woman’s voice came over my shoulder.

“Are you related to Natalie Bock?”

I said that was my mother’s name.

“I hoped so,” the woman said, “I saw your name in the paper and I hoped so.”

I waited.

“Here.” The woman thrust a piece of paper at me. It was a photocopy of an old magazine piece. I looked closer. My mother wrote that piece in the 1940s. It was titled, “My Life with the Dominie,” a story about life in the small rural parish they served right after my father graduated from seminary in 1941.

“I bet you don’t have that.” I pulled away from my thoughts. “No, I said, “I don’t, but I’ve heard about it. Don’t you need this copy?”

The old woman told me that she had the original and also another copy. She said she re-read it often. I asked her why.

“Oh,” she said with a big smile, “It’s such a wonderful story.”

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