‘Good’ and ‘bad’ stories: decisive moments, ‘shock and awe’ and being moral


Bernie Carter
Professor of Children's Nursing
Department of Nursing
University of Central Lancashire
Preston, PR1 2HE
Telephone: 01772 893720
E-mail: bcarter@uclan.ac.uk


Aim.  Within this paper I explore some of the issues related to eliciting, interpreting, choosing and re-telling stories gathered within narrative inquiry.

Background.  Most of the literature focusing on narrative inquiry and narratives makes little mention of what makes a story intrinsically ‘good’ or ‘bad’ although it is generally acknowledged that stories have moral lessons embedded within them and have a teaching/learning function. However, many of the moral issues associated with gathering, interpreting and re-telling stories are not really addressed.

Method.  Adopting a reflexive stance, I draw on Cartier-Bresson's notion of decisive moments and link this to narratives as a way of exploring what makes a story ‘good’/compelling as well as potentially ‘bad’/morally problematic. I develop the idea that narrative researchers may act as ‘horror magnets’ attracting ‘bad news’ stories and may be overlooking some of the more ‘neutral’ and ‘good’/‘good news’ stories.

Conclusion.  Narrative researchers may be adopting a ‘shock and awe’ approach to their stories without fully considering the potential impact. I propose that narrative researchers should engage in a morally proficient manner with participants/stories and conclude that a relational ethical approach can help us to ‘act well’ with people's stories.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Narrative inquiry and a storied approach to practice has much to offer researchers, practitioners and patients/families. Stories can get to the heart of patients’ experiences. Stories provide practitioners with one means of ‘acting well’ and in a relational way with their patients.