Stories are the most fundamental form of communication. We live by stories—our own and those of others, real or imagined. It is how we relate and stay connected. We NEED stories to maintain our balance and identity. It’s one of our deepest social needs.
Think about it. We tell stories all the time: “I went to the store today and…blah, blah, blah.” “You’ll never guess what so-and-so at work said to me today…” “Do you know how much gas was today when I filled up the truck?” Everything we talk about—from the most mundane to the most exhilarating experience—is a story.
Even when we don’t have a story of our own, we tell someone else’s story. “Susie told me that when she saw Gary at the mall…” “Mom said that Dad foiled a crime and tackled a drunk man in the church…” and “You’ll never guess what happened to Bob last night….”
Most crimes aren’t solved by detective work, but by someone tipping off the cops—passing on the story they NEED to tell, whether their own or someone else’s. Stories are powerful…and keeping them locked away inside a secret compartment is close to impossible.
Craft is what we use to create a complete story. A lump of clay isn’t anything to get excited about; but when crafted and formed into a bowl, it becomes very useful. So it is with stories. We tell lots of stories each day without much thought. When we take a story and begin to craft it with purpose, then Identification takes place.
Identification is why the reader reads & why the writer writes. We go to stories for this emotional connection, but why?
Remember what I said in the beginning? We NEED stories to maintain our balance and identity. Do you have yourself all figured out? Do you know yourself so well that you will never do anything stupid again?
Probably not. When it comes to knowing ourselves, we are incomplete, lacking, and deficient. Sorry to burst your bubble…but it’s true. Each of us is our own ongoing problem until the day we die. Yippee!
Stories help us piece together our own riddle…solving the vast mystery of who we are. When we go to a movie and experience the emotions of the characters, we’re experiencing ourselves in a way we couldn’t if we stayed at home. It’s the same when we read a book and identify with the characters there.
Experiencing others emotions (via stories) puts us in touch with ourselves…expands us in a way we can’t achieve on our own. When we feel what the characters feel, we feel more of ourselves. In becoming them, we become more of who we are. The complete story fulfills us, gives us a sense of closure—completes us, for the moment.
Two great books I’ve read in the last year that show the value of stories in shaping lives, are The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and Icefall by Matthew Kirby. They have unique formats, switching back and forth between the plot and children’s fairytales (The Forgotten Garden) or Nordic legends (Icefall). The fairytales and legends told throughout the book actually help the characters make sense of their lives.
I will conclude by giving you HOMEWORK. (Stop screaming. It’s not so bad)
Be aware of all the stories you tell each day…and of the stories others tell. In other words…LISTEN. (See! That’s not so bad…is it?)
Then, after you’ve exercised your ears and mind, take time to craft one of these stories into a thing of worth. (I fear you are hyperventilating between screams now. Stop being a scaredy-cat) Whether you are an already published author or someone who doesn’t think they can write jack-squat, put that bent wrist of yours to work and craft a story. Even if no one ever reads it, you will learn a LOT about yourself and your world as you become a CRAFTSMAN.
Try it…you’ll like it. And when you’re finished, call Sears and tell them to donate some Craftsman tools to you since you’re now a certified CRAFTSMAN…and just plain awesome. Now do your homework!
An excellent writing book is Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver. It has great ideas to jump-start your story writing.
(Images taken from Microsoft Images and Wikipedia)