What IS a Story? Kendall Haven Provides a Scientific Definition (Yes, Scientific)

February 4, 2011

by Gail Kent

Definition of Story

Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story

There’s a wonderful series going on over at the blog, A Storied Career that you really should read. This is a terrific site — by Kathy Hansen –  on traditional and postmodern forms of storytelling that you should check out. But the interview series she’s been running this week has been particularly good.

This week she’s been running multiple day interviews with story guru Kendall Haven, author of the acclaimed book, STORY PROOF: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. He’s done fascinating research that shows that the human response to storytelling is actually hard-wired into our brains.

He’s developed a precise definition of story based on on what neural science has revealed:

A story is: a character-based narrative of an interesting character’s struggles to reach a real and important goal that is initially blocked by some combination of one or more problems and conflicts that have the potential to create some real risk and danger (jeopardy) for that character, all presented in sufficient detail to make the story seem vivid, compelling, and memorable.

So what that means is that we’ve got nature on our side when we use story to help us endear others to us, whether we’re telling stories to our children to get them ready to fall asleep, to students as teaching aids, to employees to gain trust and build team spirit, or to customers to win loyalty. I’m looking forward to reading the remainder of Hansen’s interview and Haven’s book. And I’m especially excited to learn what I’ve suspected for a long time — that story is as basic and bread and water to humans. It’s part of our DNA.

What IS a Story? Kendall Haven Provides a Scientific Definition (Yes, Scientific) by

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy Hansen February 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Thanks so much for the shoutout, Gail. All of the the Q&As have been good, but Kendall Haven’s was really exceptional.

Gail Kent February 11, 2011 at 1:10 am

Hi Kathy — Yes, I can’t wait to read his book! I got a Nook for Christmas, and it’s so easy to buy books now. I’m sooo behind! I’ve sworn that I won’t buy any more until I get caught up. I love what you’re doing on AStoriedCareer.com. I don’t know how you it up every day!

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