Tell Me a Story (Part 1): Characteristics of the Art of Narrative

  • Susan Gary Walters


Drawing from fields as diverse as philosophy, management, psychology, counseling, communications, education, the arts, and biblical studies, this article presents ideas about the nature of stories. The article lists twenty-one characteristics of stories, organized in eight categories: being human, attracting notice, connecting people, resonating with reality, shaping thinking and memory, engaging the senses, simplifying communication, and envisioning the future. Each section includes examples of how these characteristics come into play. Carefully thinking about the nature of stories equips people to use them in a wide array of contexts to communicate powerfully.

Keywords: story, stories, narrative, communication, verbal art, verbal artform, oral tradition, narrative transportation

All images were created by the author.

Author Biography

Susan Gary Walters

Susan Gary Walters, with SIL International, has worked for over twenty years alongside people in Asia, contributing to local language development. She holds an MA in linguistics, a PhD in intercultural education, and is an adjunct professor in the World Arts department at Dallas International University. Her interests include exploring languages, supporting cross-cultural collaboration, facilitating learning and literacy, and helping communities enjoy and use their arts.