I tried to book for Saturday night but it was sold out. So, like a man possessed in a fuel crisis, I panicked and booked the next available slot I could attend the following Monday evening. When you read this article, I might be in the cinema lapping up the latest instalment of 007. No doubt, I will secretly be putting myself in Bond’s shoes, vicariously experiencing the thrills and spills over the course of 2 hours 43 minutes!

Stories are not just entertainment. They are the means by which we can live out both familiar and unusual experiences without the risk or the trauma or the joy that comes from having the experience in real life. This is why we get energised by a great action movie, moved by an emotionally-charged drama and gushy over a well-made romcom. By engaging with stories, we are putting ourselves in the protagonist’s shoes and subliminally asking ourselves questions about how we would respond in such a situation. In doing so, stories help us to make sense of our lives and can have a profound effect on decisions we make.

There is science to back this up. Will Storr’s The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human and Robert McKee’s Story explore the power of stories in novels and films; for a quicker overview, here’s a one-minute video called The Neuroscience of Storytelling:

At Ten Ten, we use storytelling at the heart of our programmes. This is because we give children and young people, in an age-appropriate way, vicarious experiences of personal challenges and conflict with others to help them grow in self-awareness and in their relationships with others. We encourage pupils to enjoy the stories being presented for their own sake, and also to engage in deeper reflection about the situation, the characters, the motivation and the resolution.

Recently, Pope Francis had something memorably down-to-earth to say to all of us on the subject of stories. Let’s leave the last word to him:

We were not put here just to make do, but to make something of our lives. If you think about some of the great stories you read in novels, or see in unforgettable movies or hear in some moving tale, there are always two things that go together. One is love, and the other is adventure, heroism. They always go together. For our life to be great, we need love and heroism alike. If we look to the crucified Jesus, we find both boundless love and the courage to give one’s life to the utmost, without half-measures… Please, don’t let your lives just pass by like so many episodes in a soap opera.

Pope Francis

Meeting with young people in Slovakia, 14 September 2021