Short Story Keynote Promotes Group Participation and Thought

October 2013

Everyone knows that short stories can tell an incredibly entertaining and detailed story using far less pages than an average novel or textbook, just ask Washington Irving, Isaac Asimov or Stephen King. But did you know that short stories are also packed with the potential to enhance learning by teaching big ideas and immense thoughts in a shorter amount of text?

This was the topic of Brian Remer’s keynote presentation, “Why Short Stories Rock,” at the 2013 National Registry Summit in Houston, TX. Remer used several interactive exercises to demonstrate the power of short stories as effective mediums for persuasion and powerful tools for sharing ideas.

In his presentation, Remer cited Stephen Denning’s The Secret Language of Leadership, which discusses the three-step traditional approach to persuasive speech and writing:

  1. Defining the problem
  2. Analyzing the problem
  3. Recommending a solution

However, the danger to this approach is that the author runs the risk of boring people to death with facts, statistics and his or her “superior” knowledge of the issues. To combat these risks, Remer suggested to Summit attendees that they should reach people on an emotional level first for personal investment and lasting impact, and used his “99-Word Stories,” which are short and powerful essays, to illustrate his point.

Remer said he started writing short stories as a way to present more concise case studies after he noticed his consumers were reading between the lines and adding their own information that he had never thought about.

“I like the idea of a 99-word story because it’s a very complete thing,” said Remer. “Short stories can really invoke, inspire and engage people in a way that a longer story might not…When a case study was a page long, or two pages long, there was so much information there that either people couldn’t digest it, or all the answers were there and there was no fun in trying to explore what the concept was.”

Like the Summit’s other keynote presentation from Paul McGinniss, Remer presented some very interesting information based on neuroscience research. Remer cited that the brain does not distinguish between reading about an experience and encountering that experience in real life, and that in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. For example, words like “lavender” and “cinnamon” can trigger responses in the language processing area and the olfactory cortex.

Remer related this ability to what is known as Theory of Mind, in which people, especially young children, can increase the capacity to learn empathy, cause and effect, etc., through reading stories, and therefore helping to understand the complexities of social life.

If you would like to read one of Remer’s “99-Word Stories,” take a look at “Climbing Toward Goals,” one of the stories he used for group discussion at the Summit. For more information on Remer and his organization, please visit their website, The Firefly Group.

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