Did you ever wonder about this? Really now. Of what good is a story? Has it any practical use? It’s not like a gadget or a gizmo that can actually do something, or can provide a useful function. One could probably successfully live and die and never read a novel, or be told a story. (Although I shudder to think of such a life, I suppose it could happen.)
Stories, I venture to say, are so ingrained in who we are and what we are, they can easily be overlooked or dismissed or disparaged. It would be the same as being oblivious to the melodic sound of a child’s laughter. Or ignoring how sunlight sparkles and shimmers on the surface of a bubbling stream.
What Is a Story?
Going back to the basics of basics – what exactly is a story? A co-worker told you a juicy bit of gossip at work this morning. Is that a story? Yes. That can be a type of story; but not story in its purest form.
Essentially, every 60-second TV commercial attempts to tell a story – albeit an extremely short story.
Story in it purest form must go somewhere. Something happens; then something happens next, which makes the reader (listener) want to know what happens next. Each is interconnected.
These series of events must happen TO someone. That someone will be the main character (or characters). Next, that someone must be a someone that the reader cares about. For if the reader does not care, that reader will cease reading. The story at that point is missing a key element. That key element is a character who is so real and lifelike that the reader is closely relating to that character.
What then is the function of a story? A story’s main function is to explore human emotions, values, and beliefs. A story allows us to see people and circumstances that we may deeply relate to, and yet we can stand separate and apart (objective) from them. Stories give humankind a tool, so to speak, to be used for the purpose of gaining understanding.
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
What is he saying here? Stories have a distinct function in the development of the human mind and psyche.
My quote would read more like this:
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read aloud to them. If you want them to be more intelligent, read aloud to them more.”
Personally, I was reading aloud to my children almost from birth. No PSA ad on television had to tell me this was beneficial. As a storyteller and story-lover, I knew it was beneficial. (I, at the time, had no idea just how beneficial!) My grandchildren have now been read to from little up and all four are avid readers. But I digress.
Exploring and Knowing Self
If the story explores human emotions, values and beliefs, and if characters come to know self through a series of events, it stands to reason that the reader will gain insight as to how to also know self. Often what is revealed to the character in the process of self-discovery, can be mirrored in the mind and heart of the reader.
“Ah yes.” The reader gives an inward sigh as the book closes on the last word of the last chapter of the past page. It’s a sigh of satisfaction, yes. But it’s more. So much more.
It can be compared to listening to a concert performed by an orchestra of great renown. At the last fading note of the last encore, something in the human soul has been fed and nurtured. A good story in the same way, feeds the human soul and makes the world a better place.
I love it when my daughter (busy homeschooling mother of three) is reading a great novel and greedily snatches moments to read. Literally, she can hardly wait to get back to the story. It lies there on the kitchen counter, or on the table by the couch, wooing her with a siren song that can hardly be resisted.
Of what good is story?
I guess I could say I’m in the business of manufacturing an intangible product known as a story. I have stories that also woo me with their siren song. The song I hear is different. It’s not to read the story, but to tell the story. Write the story.
It would matter not a whit to me if tomorrow someone proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that stories were of absolutely no worth to anyone on the planet. I would still answer the siren song.
Of what use is story?
Story makes me want to get up in the morning. And that’s enough!