>> Tuesday, March 7, 2017
I love writing. I might have mentioned that a time or two along the way.
But, much more than that, I love telling stories. I love imagining situations that demonstrate points I want to make, imagining characters that people can understand, can feel for and with, and can identify with, and having them make mistakes and smart moves, learn and grow.
If you ever have a one-on-one conversation with me (it could happen), you'll realize that I'm always tossing out anecdotes, either of things that happened to me, things that happened to people I know, or situations I concocted to make the point I'm trying to make. Because, hey, I love telling stories.
I have a good reputation for communicating with people and perhaps that story telling is part of it, according to this article ("The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story Is the Most Effective Way to Activate Our Brains") that talks about studies that scientifically demonstrate what I've always instinctively known.
In the article, they delve into the physical reasons of why, the genetic usefulness of the story, but I, personally (and with no science backing) think it's easy to explain.
The intent of a story is to allow you to live something vicariously. I don't have to have a child out of wedlock to feel sympathy and understanding for someone in that plight. It is possible for a very sympathetic person to feel that way with a bullet point, but a story, were we're put in her shoes, where we come to terms with parents that disown us, with a workplace world that certainly doesn't want us, with societal norms that make us into monsters, tell us we can't abort the children that will change (possibly disastrously) our futures, but then treat us as pariahs indefinitely for doing so. Juno is an excellent example of a story that doesn't preach, but tells us a whole host of important truths.
Stories, well-told stories, make abstract notions alive, where we can taste the bitter bile of despair or the frothy sweetness of "innocent love," we can itch with the sweat of determination and futility and feel the totally badass thrill of slicing through the enemies that threaten us. We have the opportunities to see things from perspectives we never knew or find comfort in relationships with loved ones, with pets, with friends long gone, relived through someone else's similar story.
That emotional response, in my opinion, comes from it becoming real for you, hearing the various vernaculars in James Herriot's stories, feeling the wuthering wind of desolation in Wuthering Heights, wondering what it really would be like to find you had power you didn't know about like Harry Potter. That's why so many people (including myself) become passionate about characters and worlds that never existed. That's why nonfiction that pulls out examples that demonstrate the impact of political decisions or historical facts or scientific discoveries are far more compelling than just description, no matter how erudite the language.
Because, stories make people, situations, facts, history, philosophy come alive.
And once something you've read or heard some story, have absorbed and lived that story, it becomes a part of you and created an emotional response in you. Your memory of reading/hearing it because an episode of you living it as if it's your own memory and affects how you see the world, how you see people, what matters to you. Not because the point was hammered over and over -- in fact, don't do that; people don't respond to that unless they're already believers--but because the lessons are part and parcel of the story. I don't have to hammer a point if it comes as part of a story, intrinsic. It helps, of course, if the contrivance for the story is not obvious and--please, please-the writer took the effort to make it entertaining, too. And if you think you can't have both, you really have been indoctrinated.
Few examples leap to mind like M*A*S*H. I loved that show and I know, for a fact, much of the philosophy and mindset "preached" by that show, most often through example, shapes my views on war and people even today. Some of it got a bit heavyhanded toward the end, but, for the most part, they took characters we cared about and made them deal with things that people really shouldn't have to deal with--without forgetting the humor or the humanity.
So, writing for me--storytelling for me--is about communicating, telling you how I see the world, how I want to see it, what I want to strive for built in, part and parcel, with stories with people I hope you can enjoy and situations that stir the imagination, perspectives that might be different than you expected.
And, with luck, you'll have a great time at the same time.