Stories or Anecdotes

Stories or Anecdotes August 15, 2013

A good point of discussion from Jonathan Fitzgerald:

What are the distinguishing features of the story vs. the anecdote?

Storytelling is a central element of the Christian faith. From the story that unfolds over the thousands of years recorded in the Old and New Testaments, to Jesus’ use of parables, to the common practice of sharing testimonies among believers, storytelling is crucial. And yet, in contemporary evangelicalism, storytelling is more often a means to an end than an end in itself. That is, what we talk about when we talk about stories are actually anecdotes — little more than attention grabbing introductions to a larger argument we intend to make. Our stories need to come packaged with a “takeaway.”

I say “we” here, not simply to seem like I’m including myself in this misstep, but because I, too, have found that I’ve fallen into this routine. I tell a lot of stories in my writing, but they’re not very good stories. That is, they don’t have fully developed characters, or a true central conflict, or, often times, even a particularly compelling narrative arc. Rather, many of the stories I tell, like many of those I read or hear in sermons on Sunday mornings are not really intended to do much more than grab a reader or listener’s attention, before I hit them with my actual point.

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