Monday, 5 September 2011

The Magic of Storytelling

"I don't read fiction," a lady said to me at a recent market where I was selling books. "I read things that are real ... very real." I bit my tongue. After all, everyone has their own taste. But I did think Lady, you are missing out on a whole other world.

There is something magical about storytelling - indeed all the arts - that bypasses the brain with its rationale and the walls and barriers we have in place and goes straight to the heart.

I used to tour with a worship pastor and I remember him referring to a group of rough-looking tattooed-up men. He knew if he said to their face that they shouldn't be abusing their wives, they would probably knock him out. However he could sing "You had a fight with your wife last night ... don't let the sun go down ... with anger in your heart." They would clap along and walk away singing the catchy phrase "Don't let the sun go down."

The same goes for other forms of art. Paintings, sculpture, drama, movies - they all managed to touch a place deep within. I know a man who never cries about anything, except at the movies.

So it is with storytelling. Nathan the prophet used a story to get David's attention, rather than confronting him with his adultery outright. "Once there was a poor man who had a little lamb..." (See the story in 2 Samuel 12)
David's heart was engaged and he was outraged. "Off with his head!"
Nathan then brought conviction by saying "You are the man."

Jesus himself used parables - stories based in absolute truth - to teach the crowds about the Kingdom of God.

And that's why I love fiction, why I write fiction. I want to share the message of the Gospel of Jesus, absolute truth, in a way that bypasses people's stubborn walls and rationalism, to get to their heart.

Amanda Deed resides in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne where she fills her time with work, raising a family, church activities and writing historical romance novels. For more information, see:


  1. Inspiring post Amanda! I have learnt so much from writing fiction. Now the work is done I'm amazed at the message it carries underneath the surface story.
    I remember reading 'Christy' by Catherine Marshall years ago. It had such a profound impact on my life-much more than the theology I read at the same time! Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. I agree. I believe we can learn so much from stories, because there's always an element of truth at least and it can sneak up on us as in the story told by Nathan the prophet and teach us things we'd never be open to in another form. Fiction can also wet out appetite to learn more about lots of things that would seem dry and uninteresting in academic books. Love your stories Amanda. They're a great example.

  3. Thanks Jo. I've learned heaps from reading fiction, too. It's easy to tune out when it's just straight dry teaching. :)

    Thanks Carol. I like that - "it can sneak up on us". And yes, so many times I read fiction and then go and research to find out more of the truth behind it. :)

  4. Well done Amanda. Good on you! That lady needs to learn a thing or two I think. Stories are what life is made up of isn't it? And yes, she is missing out on heaps.
    I do write lots of non fiction more easily than I write fiction, I must confess. But I love fiction. And love reading stories. So keep on writing, Amanda! The world surely needs more of it.
    Blessings and thanks for sharing,

  5. Hi Anusha. Non-fiction can use storytelling, too. I've read some that teach a bit and then use a story as an example. So easy to read. Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. Hi Amanda. Whether it's fiction or non fiction surely the appeal is how the story is told. To simply dismiss fiction is to rob oneself from books which have changed the world - for good or ill - because they were well written. I've read some non fiction material which is like loading the mind with concrete rather than inspiring it.
    Keep stirring the heart.
    Ray Hawkins

  7. LOL Ray. So true. Some non-fiction is really dry and hard to get through. And badly written fiction can make you throw it at the wall. I guess it goes both ways. :)

  8. Amanda, great post! We can learn so much through reading well written stories that touch our hearts :)

  9. Thanks Amanda. I'm very encouraged by what you've said. it's just brilliant and makes me want to write better and better!

  10. So true, Amanda! That's exactly why I am trying to write serious stuff in a way that engages the imagination. Kind of a mix between story telling and copy writing. Whether I'll be successful at it is yet to be determined:) Thanks for the encouraging post!

  11. Thanks for all your help Narelle, and thanks for the encouargement. :)

    Hi Jackie. I too, want to write better and better - honing that gift to have a sharp edge. :)

    Thanks Margaret. All the best with your writing endeavours. Sounds intriguing. :)

  12. Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for the post, I too have met people who never read fiction and I believe you can get your message across in fiction in a gentle and thought provoking way.
    Thanks Jennifer Ann

  13. I always joke with my hub, "You write facts and I write fibs!" Seriously though, Amanda, everyone loves a story. Even the woman who doesn't READ fiction, would probably watch a movie. If t'was good 'nuff for Jesus...'nuff said!"

  14. Beautiful post Amanda! I couldn't agree more. I've had someone tell me they never touch fiction too. They only read Bible Study books and biographies. But each time we open the Bible to hear from God we brush against a story... or two. I love your illustration of the pastor who sang his message to his audience. God has blessed us with so many ways of sharing His story. Keep at it, girl!!

  15. my husband prefers to read biographies, though he will read fiction. But if you think about it a lot of Jesus' teachings was done in parables which are short stories of fiction (though it could have happened).
    Well just like Rita said.

    Great post and just because one writes fiction doesn't make it wrong.

  16. Hi Jennifer Ann. I agree, you can get your message across with subtlety through fiction. Thanks.

    Penny - :) Thanks.

    Hi Rita - 'nuff said indeed! I like that - if it's good enought for Jesus ...

    Thanks Dots. The Bible has soooo many stories - quite captivating ones at that. I know my kids love to hear their Bible stories. :)

    Hi Melanie. Yes, and Jesus didn't even explain the meaning of the parables to the general public, only to His disciples. So, I guess He just let the message soak into their hearts, making them want to know more.

  17. It freaks me out that there would be people out there who don’t like fiction. My over active imagination is almost affronted by the notion – of cause upon reflection I realize that the Lord uses every medium. I’m just made to love a story. As a Christian writer it’s the ultimate when someone tells you they learnt a valuable message from your story, or saw themselves in a character. Let’s face it – our world would be very dull without its storytellers.

  18. For around 10 years I didn't read a lot of fiction - I was surrounded by highly motivated people who only read self help books, and Christians who thought fiction was a waste of time - Thank goodness I saw the light! So much to learn from fiction - both Christian and mainstream

  19. I'm always amazed when people say they don't read fiction.

    It's allowed a lot of teens and abused women to escape from the harsh realities of their world, into a safer realm when no one gets hurt.

    It allows writers to get their point across without being preachy or condescending.

    If it has God's stamp on it, well who are we to say otherwise?

  20. It doesn't matter whether the work is fiction or non-ficion, the important thing is that the work touches the heart.

  21. Great post, story transforms, even with children. Educators say children can't understand complex arguments on things like the problem of pain - they are correct, but they grasp story. We just did the story of Joseph over 4 weeks for our local kids club. The kids loved it - and they were left with a story that gives them a framework for making sense of pain, tragedy, injustice - facing it with resilient faith, and curing the bitterness with forgiveness because somehow God makes it all 'right' in the end. Wow. That's why I keep telling these ancient old stories.

  22. I should say I struggle to read long fiction. I struggle to hold all the characters in my head. I get confused about who is who. My wife says, 'no way, I can imagine it all in my head like a movie.' [I prefer the movie]. So maybe some of us don't have the head space for long fiction. I prefer short 'fiction', stories - which good non-fiction incorporates to make it come alive!