The Filthy Fingerprints of Stories: A Revealing Look

The filthy fingerprints of stories are felt everywhere (Photo via Gdynia, 2013 from Flickr)

Stories have filthy fingerprints from their widespread use. They touch many areas of our lives every day. They appear so frequently because stories are indispensable to being human. Stories help define who we are. They also form a bridge between people to share the human experience.

The following topics are brief snapshots of how stories, or narratives, are intertwined with our lives.

Healthcare and Psychology

Making significant lifestyle changes is no easy task. However, medical professionals have found that for some patients reading stories with characters they identify with is enough to motivate the patients to make healthier choices for themselves (This also speaks to the power of anecdotes). Stories accomplish this by sustaining the reader’s attention through emotion and tension.

Further, the stories we tell ourselves about our lives can determine our mood. There is narrative therapy for people who have trouble with the stories they tell themselves, which can help them reframe their stories, change their perspective, and lead more content lives. Rethinking and retelling your self-story can change your life. For instance, narrative therapy is often used to help treat substance abuse issues.


Most of the world’s religions are rooted in stories. Some started as oral traditions. The use of narrative is a linchpin of Christianity, in particular. Religion often uses stories to teach adherents how to lead moral lives. So it makes sense that stories are foundational to religion as stories help us make sense and order out of the world.

Politics: Politicians, Elections, and Slogans

Politicians love stories. You will often hear them use “narrative” in reference to their chosen stories. For example, the use of “metanarratives,” or the stories that groups use to tell their story, are what help politicians get elected. They can do this with a mere slogan: “Make America Great Again” is a story rife with historical and social connotations.

Political narratives help make candidates more relatable. They also mythologize the candidates. These narratives are also not above using social media to manipulate constituents.

Law: Cases and Juries

Politicians can tell two very different stories about history. Lawyers can likewise tell two very different stories with the same set of facts. Carl Bettinger outlines how crucial storytelling is to lawyers in Twelve Heroes, One Voice. Bettinger says that lawyers should use storytelling to sway jurors by appealing to their emotional intelligence. Further, that storytelling helps guide the jurors into picturing themselves as the heroes in the case’s story, and the defendant as the villain.

Lawyers also use storytelling to contextualize the case and help the jurors remember the facts while still focusing on the people involved. Thus, it is unsurprising that an English degree can often pave the way to a law degree.

Business: Consumer Feedback and Marketing

Many aspects of business are also influenced by the use of stories. Customers use stories to share their positive and negative experiences with brands. Stories can also be an excellent tool for leaders to provide learning experiences for employees. Marketing is storytelling, often with the simplest brevity. “Just do it” has the conciseness of a Raymond Carver story. Albeit, one that may have been derived from a convicted murderer’s last words.


Stories have filthy fingerprints from touching so many aspects of our lives. Companies rise and fall with the stories consumers spread about them. By telling ourselves better stories about our past, present, and future, we can take control of our lives again. In the political sphere, the most compelling narrative can decide the next president. In a courtroom, the effectiveness of a story can be a matter of life or death.

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