50 Quotes on “Narrative” that Change the Way we look at Storytelling

While a picture may be worth a thousand words, the narrative itself is priceless. As PR and marketing pros, we strive to develop (and nurture) a strategic narrative that will help our clients leapfrog their competition and win in the marketplace. While this is not an easy feat, taking the time and making the effort to create a powerful narrative (at the industry level) helps establish thought leadership and the opportunity to “influence the influencers.” It also frames a solution to a problem that faces the many, not just a few.

Want to learn how your narrative stacks up? Get a free narrative assessment here.

In an effort to dig deeper into the meaning and purpose behind a narrative, we’ve compiled 50 quotes for your consumption. The list of quotes below (thanks to BrainyQuote and GoodReads.com) consists of many different sources and are in reference to all kinds of subjects – a cross-section of humanity, if you will. What you may find as you read through the list below is that storytelling can take on an entirely different meaning than perhaps originally understood.

Next week, we’ll dive into the difference between “storytelling” vs. a “Strategic Narrative.” In the meantime, happy reading and please post your favorite quotes about narratives in the comments section below!

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  1. “No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words.” ― Roger ZelaznyLord of Light
  2. “All stories have a curious and even dangerous power. They are manifestations of truth — yours and mine. And truth is all at once the most wonderful yet terrifying thing in the world, which makes it nearly impossible to handle. It is such a great responsibility that it’s best not to tell a story at all unless you know you can do it right. You must be very careful, or without knowing it you can change the world.” ― Vera NazarianDreams of the Compass Rose
  3. “We are all born as storytellers. Our inner voice tells the first story we ever hear.” ― Kamand Kojouri
  4. “Every story needs some sort of secret that impels it forward. Otherwise why would the reader bother to keep on turning the pages?” ― Deb Loughead
  5. “Human beings often claim to understand events when they manage to formulate a coherent story or narrative explaining what factors caused a specific incident to occur. Stories assist the human mind to remember and make decisions based on informative stories. Narrative writing also prompts periods of intense reflection that leads to more writing that is ruminative. Contemplative actions call for us to track the conscious mind at work rendering an accounting of our weaknesses and our strengths, folly and wisdom.” ― Kilroy J. OldsterDead Toad Scrolls
  6. “Creating a relatable narrative means digging deep, asking hard questions and potentially airing some uncomfortable truths.” ― Tobin TrevarthenNarrative Generation: Why Narrative Will Become Your Most Valuable Asset in the Next 5 Years
  7. “It’s the role of narrative to bridge the gap between philosophy as abstract theory, ideas in the ether, and life as lived on the ground.” ― Jacob M. HeldStephen King and Philosophy
  8. “I heard the stories of the storytellers, telling the stories people wanted to hear. Everyone finds the narrative that matches the narrative they already know and want. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to share the truth. It wasn’t that I feared the response. It was that I no longer believed in a truth.” ― F. LovettThe Moonborn: or, Moby-Dick on the Moon
  9. “Lewis wanted us to understand that the inner world is shaped by stories.”  ― Alister E. McGrathIf I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C.S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life
  10. “Presidents are also always storytellers, purveyors of useful national mythologies.” ― Rick PerlsteinThe Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan
  11. “The most powerful words in English are, “Tell me a story.” ― Pat ConroyMy Reading Life
  12. “Tell someone to do something, and you change their life–for a day; tell someone a story and you change their life.” ― T. WrightThe New Testament and the People of God
  13. “We are narrative creatures, and we need narrative nourishment—narrative catechisms.” ― D. WilsonDeath by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
  14. “Remembering a narrative alters it.” ― Gregory BenfordShipstar
  15. “Writers use narratives to select from everything there is, and make contexts by putting the pieces into relation; that’s what writers do, they make contexts.” ― Paul ShepheardHow to Like Everything: A Utopia
  16. “A compelling narrative fosters an illusion of inevitability.” ― Daniel KahnemanThinking, Fast and Slow
  17. “An inclusive narrative structure provides the executive brain with the best template and strategy for the oversight and coordination of the functions of mind. A story well told, containing conflicts and resolutions, gestures and expressions, and thoughts flavored with emotion, connects people and integrates neural networks.” ― Louis CozolinoThe Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social Brain
  18. “Stories matter.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  19. “One of underestimated tasks in nonfiction writing is to impose narrative shape on an unwieldy mass of material.” ― William Zinsser
  20. “Story should be a descent — the feeling that there is an intense gravity to the narrative that draws you down, down, down.” ― Chuck Wendig
  21. “Narrative is one of the best intoxicants or tranquilizers.” ― S. ByattStill Life
  22. “Narratives are the primary way in which we make sense of our lives, as opposed to, for example schema, cognition, beliefs, constructs. Definition of narrative include the important element of giving meaning to events and experiences over time by connecting them as a developing, continuing story.” ― Jacqui Stedmon
  23. “Storytelling is storytelling. You still play by the same narrative rules. The technology is completely different. I don’t use one piece of technology that I used when I started directing.” ― James Cameron
  24. “It’s a wonderful narrative device to bring someone from the outside and look through his eyes if you want to describe the absurdity and preposterous reality that is accepted amongst the ones who are inside.” ― Christoph Waltz
  25. “There’s a reason the Exodus story has inspired so many Americans. It’s a narrative of hope.” ― Bruce Feiler
  26. “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
  27. “The purpose of narrative is to present us with complexity and ambiguity.” ― Scott Turo
  28. “You know, we love stories and we love narrative; we love to get lost in an author’s world.” ― Jeff Bezos
  29. “Narrative becomes the way you make sense of chaos. That’s how you focus the world. It’s the only reason you should ever try this writing job.” ― Dennis Lehane
  30. “If you have a good story idea, don’t assume it must form a prose narrative. It may work better as a play, a screenplay or a poem. Be flexible.” ― Hilary Mantel
  31. “Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change. This is especially important for historical fiction. When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that’s the point to step back and fill in the details of their world.” ― Hilary Mantel
  32. “As a writer and as a reader, I really believe in the power of a narrative to allow us ways to experience life beyond our own, ways to reflect on things that have happened to us and a chance to engage with the world in ways that transcend time and gender and all sorts of things.” ― Kim Edwards
  33. “We need narrative; it feeds us in a particular way, and deconstructing it completely before you’ve actually experienced it, I think it leaves us unfed.” ― Joss Whedon
  34. “People need a narrative, and if there isn’t one on offer, they make one up.” ― Jean Hanff Korelitz
  35. “As human beings, we are all not conducting just one narrative but many narratives all at the same time.” ― David Hare
  36. “Forecasting is simply not a strength of the species; we are much better with tools and narrative storytelling.” ― Barry Ritholtz
  37. “One of our worst traits in journalism is that when we have a narrative in our minds, we often plug in anecdotes that confirm it. Thus we managed to portray President Gerald Ford, a first-rate athlete, as a klutz.” ― Nicholas Kristof
  38. “I care about narrative structure; I care about how stories unfold.” ― Jeff Nichols
  39. “Brands’ products should be the manifestation of a company’s values. Those values should be the subject of all sorts of wonderful stories that comprise your company’s narrative.” ― Shawn Amos
  40. “There are so many different narrative traditions across the world, and each of those traditions has evolved dramatically over time. Once I understood that, I felt truly free; I could write and invent the way I wanted to because there never has been only one way to tell a good story.” ― Ken Liu
  41. “Simply put, the Internet undermines the ability of an institution to control its own narrative.” ― Jamais Cascio
  42. “Telling stories and having them received is so important. That dialogue is everything. I tell my students all the time that what separates us as human beings is our ability to hold stories. Our narrative history. There is so much power in that. Storytelling is our human industry.” ― Kathi Appelt
  43. “I feel like there’s already a written narrative going on everywhere. All the different situations and realities you’re in, like words floating by. It’s something that I didn’t start thinking about until recently, but you can hitch that ride, that narrative that’s already been created. You just have to read it and write it down.” ― Bill Callahan
  44. “In the writing of novels, there is the problem of how to shape a narrative.’ ― Gore Vidal
  45. “Each country has its own way of communicating a narrative and, through that, expressing family experiences in emotional stories.” ― Elvis Mitchell
  46. “I like narrative storytelling as being part of a tradition, a folk tradition.” ― Bruce Springsteen
  47. “Any narrative, whether it’s fiction or not, you have to approach it as though it really happened to you. I think that’s the only way to get inside the characters and make the narrative work. It’s a storytelling tradition, and I think to come off as genuine then you have to really approach it that way.” ― Jason Isbell
  48. “I think my sensibilities about storytelling and character just automatically come into play when I’m trying to work on any kind of narrative. For me, it doesn’t really matter what the source of the narrative is. I will be looking for ways to make it into an intriguing story with empathetic characters.” ― Duncan Jones
  49. “Considerations of plot do a great deal of heavy lifting when it comes to long-form narrative – readers will overlook the most ham-fisted prose if only a writer can make them long to know what happens next.” ― Lynn Coady
  50. “Everything is a narrative in life. I learned that early on as a reporter at the ‘Washington Post.”  ― Kara Swisher


Want more quotes on narrative and storytelling? Head over here for 30 more quotes!