30 Quotes on “Narrative” and its Impact on Storytelling

Strategic NarrativeAs stated in the previous “50 Quotes on Narrative that Change the Way we look at Storytelling” blog post – a picture may be worth a thousand words, but the narrative itself is priceless. As marketing and PR pros, we must unpack the truth in what makes a narrative resonate with our audience, thereby incentivizing our desired call to action.

It takes time and dedication to create a powerful narrative – a constant drip of a story or vision that endures the test of time. In business, for example, a strategic narrative helps establish differentiation, thought leadership, category ownership, and the opportunity to “influence the influencers” in your market space.

In politics, a strategic narrative is intended to frame National policy decisions regarding investment, security, economic development, the environment, and so on. It is built upon the premise that a people must aim to sustain its national interests. Though, it may also reveal how political parties and others seeking power use verifiable facts, half-truths, and misinformation to tell stories designed to promote their own interests.

The point is – when crafted and leveraged the right way – narratives create change.

In an effort to dig even deeper into the meaning and purpose behind a narrative, we’ve compiled 50 (more) quotes for your reading pleasure. The list of quotes below (thanks to PoemHunter.com,  YourDictionary.com and AZQuotes.com) consists of many different sources and are in reference to all kinds of subjects – from poetry and art to religion and pop culture.

What I hope you find as you read through the list below is that narrative can – and often does – take on an entirely different meaning than perhaps originally acknowledged.


  1. “My purpose is to make my narrative as truthful as possible.” George Armstrong Custer
  2. “Well, if storytelling is important, then your narrative ability or your ability to put into words or use what someone else has put into words effectively, is important too.” Howard Gardner
  3. “The narrative of serial art works more like music than like literature.” Sol LeWitt
  4. I do insist on making what I hope is sense so there’s always a coherent narrative or argument that the reader can follow.” Howard Nemerov
  5. “I love the freedom that the narrative form provides.” Sidney Sheldon
  6. We can never safely exceed the actual facts in our narratives. Of pure invention, such as some suppose, there is no instance. To write a true work of fiction even is only to take leisure and liberty to describe some things more exactly as they are.” Henry David Thoreau
  7. A narrative is like a room on whose walls a number of false doors have been painted; while within the narrative, we have many apparent choices of exit, but when the author leads us to one particular door, we know it is the right one because it opens.” John Updike
  8. People need a sacred narrative. They must have a sense of larger purpose, in one form or another, however intellectualized. They will find a way to keep ancestral spirits alive.” E. O. Wilson
  9. I think that rap is narrative, when it’s done right.” Ajay Naidu
  10. The narrative impulse is always with us; we couldn’t imagine ourselves through a day without it.” Robert Coover
  11. The pattern of the narrative never of necessity wants to end, it never has to.” Robert Creeley
  12. The narrative constructs the identity of the character, what can be called his or her narrative identity, in constructing that of the story told. It is the identity of the story that makes the identity of the character.” Paul Ricoeur
  13. “The purpose of narrative is to present us with complexity and ambiguity.” Scott Turow
  14. “Most religions live from a narrative that shapes their relationship with the divine other, God or the gods, and with the human other, the stranger.” Timothy Radcliffe
  15. “I don’t know if there is any one secret to successful writing, but one important step is to move beyond imitation and discover what you can write that no one else can – that is, find out who you are and write that in an appropriate narrative and style.” James Gunn
  16. We construct a narrative for ourselves, and that’s the thread we follow from one day to the next. People who disintegrate as personalities are the ones who lose that thread.” Paul Pseudonym Of Paul Benjamin Auster
  17. Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” Mark Twain
  18. You exist if and only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification and, above all, outside the dictatorship of someone else’s narrative.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  19. As project chief you are creating a narrative, a story, a good yarn. If you look at the process-journey that way, you and your gang will … dramatically up the odds of a WOW outcome!” Tom Peters
  20. “There is no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.” E.L. (Edgar Lawrence) Doctorow
  21. “Nostalgia keeps dissolving the ironic narratives in which I have contained my past.” Mason Cooley
  22. “To have frequent recourse to narrative betrays great want of imagination.” Philip Dormer Stanhope
  23. “There is no master narrative nor realist perspective to provide a background of social and historical facts.” Kathy Acker
  24. “The ninety percent of human experience that does not fit into established narrative patterns falls into oblivion.” Mason Cooley
  25. “Eloquence must be grounded on the plainest narrative. Afterwards, it may warm itself until it exhales symbols of every kind and color, speaks only through the most poetic forms; but first and last, it must still be at bottom a biblical statement of fact.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  26. “In spite of the air of fable … the public were still not at all disposed to receive it as fable. I thence concluded that the facts of my narrative would prove of such a nature as to carry with them sufficient evidence of their own authenticity.” Edgar Allan Poe
  27. “Yet poetry, though the last and finest result, is a natural fruit. As naturally as the oak bears an acorn, and the vine a gourd, man bears a poem, either spoken or done. It is the chief and most memorable success, for history is but a prose narrative of poetic deeds.” Henry David Thoreau
  28. “Morality for the novelist is expressed not so much in the choice of subject matter as in the plot of the narrative, which is perhaps why in our morally bewildered time novelists have often been timid about plot.” Jane Rule
  29. “Narrative imagining — story — is the fundamental instrument of thought.  Rational capacities depend upon it. It is our chief means of looking into the future, or predicting, of planning, and of explaining.” Mark Turner
  30. I was a narrative historian, believing more and more as I matured that the first function of the historian was to answer the child’s question, ‘What happened next?’” A. J. P. Taylor

(second opportunity to check out other quote blog)

Looking for more quotes on Narrative? Take a look at “50 Quotes on Narrative that Change the Way we look at Storytelling