Crippling the Imagination of Scripture

Back to studying narrative as part of my thesis…

All stories have a vantage point, the lens from which the viewer/reader/hearer experience the action. The vantage point dictates the reality presented in the story by determining what is seen and what is not seen. Drama, or if you will the viewers attachment perhaps even entrance into the story, is often found in what is just out of sight.

This is obvious when watching something on a screen, the frame defines what can be seen. Certainty only reaches as far as the eye can see and everything else is left to the imagination. A director has the power of manipulating the view, and thus the viewer, by simply (un)zooming the lens. Instantly the vantage point, and thus the reality, of the story is altered.

Storytelling (and writing) works the same way. The storyteller gets to decide from what vantage point the story will be told; will it be a close-up with all the minutiae, a wide angle providing only panoramic views, or something in between? A storyteller does not have as much power to instantly change a story’s vantage point, but good storytellers still alter the reality of a story by changing views.

Nevertheless, regardless of the vantage point, the goal of a good story is always the same – to have the reader enter the story. Good stories even after the last page is turned, leave the reader unable to escape their reality and really good stories leave the reader unwilling to escape! Thus, the best stories are often not those where everything is explained but where everything, even more than what is on the page, is experienced.

This is one area that those of us who tell the Story of scripture often bog down. I know from my own failings, that I tend to give only two points of view. My initial point of view is so close-up that no stone is left unturned. In my zeal to fight against misunderstanding, I leave nothing to the imagination. I then jump immediately to the widest angle. I want all the territory visible so that nothing is left unseen. Ultimately, my two vantage points have the same goal, explain everything thus leaving the imagination crippled because there is nothing left out of view. In the end it might make a nice picture, but does it make a good story?

The answer, however, is not as easy as compromising and finding a middle angle that gives just enough detail without losing the big picture (as if that happy medium could even be found!)…no the answer is messy. It means leaving room for the imagination to take the story into places I have never even considered, allowing the reader to enter the story and give it a whole new vantage point. Yet, I am afraid I do not trust the Story I am telling enough to give it room to live. Sadly, in my attempt to protect the Story it often ceases to be a story at all.

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