Why do we write?
Many writers might answer, “Because I can’t not write,” and leave it at that. “We simply can’t help ourselves,” they say.
And that may be true. But why? What is it that so compels us to endure the agonies of writing when the odds are stacked against us? Why do we invest so much of ourselves in literature for so little material return?
We are made to forget ourselves in order to concern ourselves with the well-being of others. That is why we are drawn to stories.
Surely there’s a greater significance to our work than entertainment. Surely the creation and consumption of a story fulfills—at least, has the potential to fulfill—some deeper, intrinsic need.
We are naturally empathetic creatures. We need a break from self. We are made to forget ourselves in order to concern ourselves with the well-being of others. That is why we are drawn to stories.
“We never fully understand other people’s motives in real life. In fiction, however, we can help our readers understand our characters’ motives with clarity, sometimes even certainty. This is one of the reasons people read fiction—to come to some understanding of why other people act the way they do.” – Orson Scott Card
Fiction is powerful because it has the potential to engage our selfless faculties. Depending on the story and the reader, these faculties may not engage in constructive ways—and may even prove destructive. But they cannot be stirred without profound effect, either positive or negative, on the soul.
And when we are touched on such a fundamental level, it is impossible, after we close the book, to see or respond to the world in quite the same way. When the storyteller writes with conviction, he captures the most essential aspects of the overarching reality and compresses them into a form we can comprehend more readily.
Storytelling, then, is a serious business. It’s important that excellence be achieved, to the fullest extent of our ability, on every level.
It’s important that excellence be achieved, to the fullest extent of our ability, on every level.
Others have written well on many aspects of the craft, and I don’t feel the need to add to what has been said on those matters. And yet the significance of what we do, I fear, is often buried in talk of sales and saleability. These things are important, yes. We want to reach as many readers as we can. We want to engage them in an enthralling story. But let us not lose sight of why these are important.
With that in mind, in this blog I hope to focus on some of the less explored aspects of the craft, which, skillfully wielded, can create fiction that resonates deep within our readers, stories that may impact their hearts and their lives, in some small way, for years to come.
Tell me your thoughts: Why do you think stories are so important to us? In what ways have you been positively—or negatively—influenced by a book, film, or other media? What kinds of stories resonate with you?