Stories are models of the world. They enable empathy and give us the opportunity to learn and understand more about others. But, well-constructed narrative can also compel us to think and act differently.
A recent study on the neurobiology of storytelling revealed stories which developed tension in their narrative caused audiences and readers to share the characters’ emotions and, even after the story is over, continue to feel and even mimic the behaviour and emotions of the characters. This explains why we might be compelled to be kinder after reading a book featuring a particularly altruistic character or feel braver after reading about a significantly courageous person or watching a James Bond film.
In this way, well-written stories (both fiction and non-fiction) have the power to shift our beliefs and behaviours. They also enable us to forge better relationships with others (and ourselves).
In The Origin of Stories, Brian Boyd argues that stories are patterns of experience which have helped us to survive and evolve. As such they help us relate to and understand each other better.
Indeed, the lessons we can learn from other people’s stories are profound. We learn from other people’s successes and mistakes; from their adversities and their accomplishments. Stories teach us about the duality of humanity – they restore our faith in it, and lead us to question it. They can expose injustices and compel us to fight for what’s right. They can showcase resilience and help us to see past what’s wrong.
Books often provide important lessons, not only for the reader and author, but for the ghostwriter too.
For example, Caro Handley says, “working with people who have survived trauma and pain, separation and loss and yet who are living worthwhile lives has taught me about the incredible resilience of the human spirit.” While Linda Watson-Brown has learned through working with Sara Payne, Caitlin Spencer and Megan Henley “there are incredible, strong, brave people out there who have a capacity for forgiveness that is quite remarkable.”
Meanwhile, Philip Whiteley has had his eyes opened to the workings of vested interests, especially in the financial industry in terms of how we shouldn’t always accept the news as fact. Whistle-blowers often come to us ghostwriters to share their own stories – to teach us truths, to motivate readers to influence change.
The stories our clients want to share are powerful – not only do they provide our clients with a worthwhile platform from which to gain speaking opportunities, promote their enterprises and to leave their own legacy, putting their stories out into the world also helps them to achieve their own missions. For example, as a well-being author and ghostwriter of self-help books, the book I’m currently ghostwriting is enabling my client to help others to overcome a condition she’s battled since childhood. It tells her story of how she’s healed her skin condition by tapping into the power of the mind. The process of sharing her story has cemented what she’s learned and enabled her to make a difference to those who can relate.
Most of all, stories help us to relate to and understand each other (and ourselves) better. As models of the world, stories enable empathy. They teach us about reactions and behaviours that are different to our own and give us clarity and guidance when interacting with others. Stories motivate us and teach us and influence us.
When we capture other people’s stories onto pages of the books we ghostwrite, we give them the chance to motivate, teach and influence – but also to learn more about themselves than they realised – for reflecting on what we’ve learned from our own true stories can be cathartic and, at times, surprising.
As Linda Watson-Brown says, “not everyone ends up with the story they think they will.” Yet, in sharing their stories (and hiring one of us to help make it as compelling and empowering as possible) our clients give the world a gift – they enable many others to learn from their stories, including us.