Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Story Craft-- Why Stories Are Important
Stories are sneaky. As far as fiction goes, stories are lies that we are led to believe are true as long as we are immersed in them. We know they are not true, at least as a whole, and yet we are drawn into the lives of the players who play out the scenes set in far off places, worlds unknown and unreal, or simply somewhere in your neighborhood. We know they are not true and yet we experience them as if they are. We want to believe they are true. We want to be a part of these character's lives. We want to draw closer to them, understand them, even though we will never be able to.
I had a professor in my undergrad that said the end goal of fiction, at least literary fiction as opposed to genre fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, thriller, horror, romance, etc.), was to allow the reader to gain empathy for someone else, someone different than the reader. The differences can be subtle, one small thing changed from a life that seems just like your own, or they can be vastly different in culture and understand, in what is sacred and taboo. I would argue that even in most genre fiction the goal is to show empathy and I would further argue that the medium of sci-fi and fantasy can do it better sometimes than literary fiction... but that is a topic for another day.
Stories, though, are not limited to fiction. It's the holidays, you and your family are sitting around the table. The food has been eaten or near enough, all of you are content and even restful, and your uncle nudges your dad with a long smile on his face. He begins with, "you remember that time in high school..." or "you remember when dad used to..." and you are all swept away in a story that you have heard a hundred times before. And then when that story ends another begins from across the table, and on and on into the evening, all ranging from the hilarious to the sad reminder that someone is no longer sitting at the table with any of you.
This is the power of stories. To entertain, to remind, to understand, and to make sense. To feel what others felt in their life and to grow closer to them, to understand them better by the stories they tell of the life they lived and how they perceived it. And it is because of these same reasons that the most profound writings are not in essay form but rather in stories. Religion, philosophy, and history are all best remembered not in bullet point summation but in stories. Without stories, true or false, real or imagined, we become dull people. Isolated from the rest of humanity, worn out and forgotten.
Whether than a story is about infamy or virtue all stories teach and change those that read them. So a word of caution to all you readers out there, be careful what stories you take in. Some are good, some are great, and some are just bad. I suppose its a good thing you read this blog to see which stories are which.