Storytelling - Fiction or Nonfiction

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I once knew this kid, named Tyler, who was born without his right arm. Tyler grew up in an overprotective home. It made sense; his mom was worried about the setbacks Tyler’s handicap would give him. She wouldn’t let him try basketball or football because of the potential rejection he might face. It took a while for Tyler to find an activity that he was allowed to participate in, but eventually, his mom agreed to let him try karate. Tyler's mom found the “right” sensei and he began his training.

On Tyler’s first day, his sensei taught him one move. The sensei had Tyler practice this one move over and over. For months, Tyler focused on mastering this move. He would ask his sensei for more moves –– cooler moves. But his sensei insisted that he master just the one. Eventually, the sensei signed Tyler up for a karate competition. Tyler wasn’t happy; he was freaked out because he only knew one move.

Terrified, Tyler entered this competition. Several rounds passed. Surprisingly, Tyler kept winning. Round after round he advanced, until he made it to the final round. Tyler was nervous. Convinced his one move wouldn’t be enough, Tyler asked his sensei for another. Calm and confident, the sensei insisted that he trust this one move.

To everyone's surprise, Tyler won! Shocked, Tyler asked his sensei how he knew Tyler would win with only the one move. His sensei calmly replied,

“The only way to block that move is for your opponent to grab your right arm.”


Think about how you feel right now. Right as you finished this story –– how did you feel? What does this story teach you? It teaches me to always trust the “senseis” in my life. It teaches me about strength, weakness, and the value of never giving up. It teaches me to overcome doubts and fears, and trust that I am good enough. This is a parable that teaches different things to different people.

I don’t actually know Tyler. I don’t know if Tyler even exists. His story was told to me years ago.

Does knowing that this story is fictional change how it makes you feel?

John Green, author of The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns, wrote:

“Neither novels nor their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species.”

This quote led me to contemplate the idea of made-up stories. As I was pondering, I remembered that Jesus taught in parables. His most memorable sermons involved stories. Were these stories of actual fact, or events of the past? I don’t know. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter. The same is true for apostles, prophets, and other contributors to scripture. The lessons they taught, the feelings they shared, and the inspiration they established are meaningful either way. Did Jonah really get swallowed by a whale? Maybe, but the true value in that story lies in the lesson it teaches.

Influential storytelling is a superpower. Stories, both fiction and nonfiction, have the capacity to change individuals, communities, and generations for the better. They have shaped our cultural and social landscape. They create worlds where any and all things can happen. Well-told, engaging stories gather followers and unify communities. When these stories are built upon true messages and morals, they spark our inner desire to change for the better.


Reel Contender seeks to tell stories that invoke social improvement, encourage interpersonal connection, and inspire individual change. That's why we have produced UNDER THE CITADEL. It's a storytelling podcast that, although fictional, is extremely reflective of reality and the human experience. 

But don't take my word for it. You can listen to it here!

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Cj Lindsey