The art of the story


A story is more than words and plot points. It’s more than a beginning, middle and end. A story is a heart thing. And the best stories not only capture the heart, but better it.

As Christmas Eve Eve draws to a close, chores in the triple digits have been ticked off and I finally have my feet up and it’s TV catchup time. But I can afford to type and watch. Why? Because most of my catchup is with shows that don’t require my full attention. Simply because they couldn’t handle my full attention. It’s become apparent over the years that my favourite element of any show, movie or comic is the storyline. Something that is sadly lacking in much of today’s media…

It was my absolute pleasure this week to watch Star Wars episode 7, a film I have dreaming about since a boy. Much to my glee, it didn’t disappoint. The graphics, acting, ships and action sequences were fantastic but that’s not what sells me on Star Wars. The most beautiful thing about the Star Wars films is the rich story behind the characters and the world (or Galaxy) that they’re a part of. Not many franchieses achieve this level of quality story-telling. Although, there are a few (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Animals of Farthing Wood, Marvel, DC to name a few of the greats – in my eyes, anyway).

It’s part of the reason that I don’t like watching DVD extras. It ruins the illusion of the story. I don’t want to see the actors out or character, or how they made the set. I want to believe the story.

It’s no secret that my favourite film of all-time is The Lion King. Why? Because the perfect story did more than entertain me, it touched my heart. It inspired me in my valleys and encouraged me on my mountains. When a story can impact your life in such a way, it goes beyond just a story. It becomes a part of your story.

It’s only fitting, then, to talk now about the ‘greatest story ever told’. Especially a few days before Christmas. I’m, of course, talking about the birth of the Son of God. It’s been told countless times. There’s multiple Biblical accounts of the story and numerous other historical records of it too. The story marked the start of the calendar that we use today and the message has resulted in at least one religious movement.

But can a story ever loose its potency? The labour leader here I the UK: Jeremey Corsomething refuses to send Christmas greetings this year. Media companies are getting more and more scared to use the word Christmas, replacing it with ‘holidays’ or ‘seasons greetings’. So is the story loosing its grip on modern society. Maybe. But I think that’s down to the choice of the individual. I don’t think Jesus followers need to protest anything or antagonise establishments that are too scared to achnowledge the story. I think it’s just a case of dealing with the story in our own lives, which will enevitably produce positive results for all to see.

I watched the Lion King so many times that I wore through at least one VHS copy of the film. Through each viewing, the script and songs became easier to repeat. Eventually to the point where I didn’t need to pay attention the story because it became naturally a part of who I was and what I could recall.

But repetition wasn’t the key, the key was allowing the story the comfort me. I no longer needed to watch the film for it to effect me. Sure, it was enjoyable to do so (and still is), but it wasn’t necessary. I could recall encouragement, humour and inspiration whenever I needed it. But that was for a fictional film. I realise that it’s not a true story (sadly).

What of the potency of a true story? When a real story, based on true events takes hold of you – unlike fictional stories – there is another level that can occur. The relational side of a story.

It only works when you know someone from the story. Which makes the Christmas story unique. You see, it’s a story you can choose to believe or not. But if you do believe it, the story plays out with a conclusion that you can know Jesus -as a person- still today. Making it not just a story, but actually part of your story.

I love the Lion King, I love Star Wars, and they have taught and inspired me much. But at the end of the day, all they are is morals. The Christmas story is more than that. It’s become the prequel to millions of stories. And it’s become the prequel to mine. Without His story, my story wouldn’t be half as exciting. Without His story, my story would end in 75 year or so. But instead, my story continues externally. And that’s a pretty cool concept. My story will continue beyond the Internet. Because in actual fact, my story is really just a spinoff from the main story. And that story continues forever.

And so I guess that’s why it can hold the title of ‘Greatest story ever told’, because it’s still taking place. So potency isn’t really an issue. It’s more a case of acceptance of the invitation to allow that story to become the first page of your story.

Like I say. A story is more than words and plot points. It’s more than a beginning, middle and end. A story is a heart thing. And the best stories not only capture the heart, but better it. But the best story of all is the one that engulfs you entirely, a story that’s bigger than you or I but that we get a chance to contribute to and inherit as our own.