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J Clin Nurs. 2008 Apr;17(8):1063-70. Epub 2007 Nov 14.

'Good' and 'bad' stories: decisive moments, 'shock and awe' and being moral.

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Department of Nursing, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK.



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


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.


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.


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.

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