Why We Love a Story

 

Initial feedback from Hatch and Dispatch – Tales and Advice From a Midwife has been good. Good information, comforting advice, and a funny look at pregnancy and birth.

But the overwhelming ‘positive’, the aspect readers love most is the stories. Hatch and Dispatch uses stories to illustrate, educate and to enlighten. Some of them are about the narrator herself, others are about other women and their partners – their questions, problems and experiences.

As one reader has said, “the stories are GOLD”.

I knew when we started writing I wanted a good splash of narrative scattered throughout the book. Not because I had any deeper understanding of reader desires or psychology, but because that is what I like in a book. Information heavy books with no narrative are, to me, boring. They are dry, I struggle my way through them, and I often forget what I’ve read (or have trouble absorbing the information) despite the sheer amount of it in my hands.

This is because our brains are wired for stories. Research by the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies has found that in a business setting, stories help listeners better understand the key points of a presentation, and they are more likely to remember these points in the future. This is a stark contrast to me reading about the production of oestrogen 32 times and still not remembering exactly how it happens.

Stories engage. They (ideally) elicit emotion. They make the reader feel part of something, whether they recognise themselves in a character, a situation, or recognise someone else they know.

Hatch and Dispatch provides advice for pregnant women, but does so in an engaging way (‘what to expect’ already exists, we don’t need another). The stories work, it seems, because the readers can see themselves in the women in the book. They can relate to what’s on the page, even when those stories happened nearly 40 years ago (pregnancy is a timeless topic – it will not go out of fashion). Like the women in the book, the reader will swell, get mumnesia, give birth, and be terrified that the hospital will let them take a real live baby home.

And the readers will learn. They will remember the information scattered and sometimes hidden throughout the book, because they learnt it from a story.

Stories are powerful. So on reflection, perhaps I should have begun this post with a story…

 

Image by voltamax

 

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