Yesterday, I gave a talk at the Social Media Breakfast in Los Angeles. The subject was how our Big Story model can be a useful complement to Big Data. Afterward, in a lively Q&A, Bob Dickman of Narrative Influence posed a question that I struggled to answer at the time, and that I’ve been thinking about since:

“What is your definition of story?”

It was like asking a fish to define water. I swim in story. Story sustains me. It shapes and defines my world. All the possibilities in my life are defined by my relationship to it. But what IS it?

I think the answer to Bob’s question depends on who’s asked.

A chemist would define water one way. Someone dying of thirst would define it differently. As I said, when it comes to story, I am a fish. So I’ll answer from a fish perspective.

Story is water.

Now I’ll answer from the perspective of a professional storyteller, which is, in addition to fish, another role I play. I think it is important to understand story in relation to its origin. Its origin is theme. Here’s that definition:

Narrative: a flow of events connected to a theme.

Story: the conscious ordering of these events to elicit meaning.

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