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

Bernie Carter*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1063-1070
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2008


    • Ethics
    • Moral
    • Narrative
    • Nurses
    • Nursing
    • Reflexivity
    • Research
    • Stories


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