Story Structure’s Universal Appeal
Can you remember a time when you went to the movies and were blown away by a spectacular film? There are many good films out there (and just as many bad ones) but every blue moon one comes along that is particularly excellent. After films of this caliber end instead of the mad scramble to exit the theater there is instead a moment of awe when everyone is just sitting in their seats thinking “wow” as the credits role. Why is it that a good story can captivate us so?
It’s because we are designed to be drawn to good stories. Subconsciously humanity has been endowed with an attraction to specific components of story. Every amazing tale, whether it is a small scale romance novel or an epic fantasy trilogy follows the same quasi-secretive plot formula. It is partially secretive because while not many people can explain what makes a story great, every human being instinctively knows a good story from a bad one. There’s a reason some movies put people to sleep and while others are cherished for decades.
A quick fundamental of something every story needs is intense conflict. There needs to be overwhelming odds, a powerful force of evil keeping the protagonist from his or her goal. The more the hero suffers, the better the story and the more the audience is drawn into the tale. Would Lord of The Rings be a good story if the ring was just flown over to Mount Doom and easily disposed of? Of course not, and nobody would spend 4 hours watching that. Why is it then that humanity was designed to look for intense stories full of conflict? In Eden before the fall there wasn’t even any conflict. Adam and Eve didn’t even know what death is. Why would God then give them a taste for a good story with elements that were yet to be in existence?
Story structure was designed to glorify the Storyteller.
I believe God imparted a strong sense of story into humanity as a means of drawing His people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the greatest story. There is definitely something powerful about stories considering they are continuously used by Jesus in his teachings, but it’s more than that. Every element of a wonderful and captivating tale is skillfully woven throughout the Bible, climaxing with Jesus’ resurrection. In every story we crave a hero that undergoes tremendous suffering before rising victorious over the enemy. There is not a more perfect example than Jesus suffering the full wrath of God and then rising from the dead! And moreover, this story is direct game changer for the audience, who through trust in Jesus can be saved from death and given life. Story ultimately exists to point to the Storyteller, Jesus Christ.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” – John 12:46
There are numerous other ways story structure points to the Storyteller and perhaps I’ll write more on it in the future. In the meantime if you have any thoughts I would love to talk about it. Thanks for giving my article a read.