Framing the Story: TED Radio Hour takes a look at the power of narrative

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Framing-the-StoryTelling stories is that thing that makes us human. Stories ignite our imagination, and let us leap over cultural walls and cross the barriers of time. They bring us to other worlds and let us explore other lives and yet, at the same time, give us a better understanding of our own time, place and emotions.

Today’s TED Radio Hour, called “Framing the Story,” delves into how, and why, we weave narratives. It begins with Andrew Stanton, the filmmaker behind Toy Story and WALL-E, on why jokes have power — because they build a pointed story, heading toward a punchline. Next, Tracy Chevalier, the novelist who brought us the book The Girl with the Pearl Earring, shares how she would stare at a print of the two-dimensional painting by Vermeer and couldn’t help but imagine the three-dimensional tale behind its creation. Next, graphic designer Chip Kidd shares the way in which he travels in the opposite direction as he creates the imagery for book covers. As he puts it, the challenge is to create a single image that tells the story sandwiched in the pages inbetween — that will exist in tandem, as part of it.

A sub-theme of this episode is that, perhaps, sometimes stories are too effective in giving meaning. The episode continues with writer Chimamanda Adichie, who raises a flag about the dangers of a single story. She recalls her college roommates and how the story they had in their minds about what it means to be from Africa clouded their relationship. Adichie says that it’s only when we can be open to new potential narratives that we get the richest experience.

Finally, the episode returns to filmmaker Andrew Stanton, concluding with his incredibly insightful thoughts on what makes a satisfying story, from what he’s learned during his tenure at Pixar.

To hear TED Radio Hour’s “Framing the Story,” check your local NPR schedule to find out when the show airs today. Or listen to it via NPR’s website »

Head to iTunes, where the podcast is available now »