Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why do stories matter?

Last week I was a guest blogger for The Big Thrill and the topic for the week was “Why do stories matter?” I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here as well. Enjoy.

The topic this week really got me thinking. Obviously, stories matter to us all, they help us make sense of the world, we enjoy them, we find deep meaning in them, empathy, etc… but is there more?

When I was considering all of this, I remembered watching Braveheart and how, amidst one of the battles, I’d realized that one day I will die.

Yes, obvious, I know.

But here’s the thing, the paradox of it all—I while already know I’m going to die, I don’t seem to really believe it. After all, if I did, I would live differently, worry about different things, prioritize in other ways.

In a way, the story opened my eyes to a truth I already knew. Novels use a pretend world to help us to better see the real one. And it seems to me we need constant reminding. Because we know all sorts of things that we don’t seem to believe: love conquers all, eternity is but a heartbeat away, relationships are more valuable than possessions, etc…

I know this sounds a little odd to say, but stories help us to start believing the things we already know. After a story that has deeply engaged us, we drink in life more deeply, notice the sunsets more, the laughter of children more, value relationships more. Maybe that’s why we cry at the movies even though we know the stories aren’t real. Because the truths of life and death and love and hope and romance are real and we start to resonate with that.

If a story is well-told, when we “suspend our disbelief” during it, we actually open ourselves up to finally stop suspending our disbelief in reality and—if only for a moment—-to begin to truly believe in our hearts the truths we already know in our heads.


Robert Hagedorn said...

The Adam and Eve story matters if for no other reason other than the fact that it's the oldest well-known story in Western Civilization. Do a search: The First Scandal Adam and Eve.

S. R. Van Ness said...

"...stories help us start believing in the things we already know." Suh-weet. Hope you don't mind I quoted you on my blog today. Fiction Mirrors Truth.

Brad Fanning said...

love your books! when i started reading them i knew nothing about you. I was looking for something to download to my Nook and came across Patrick Bowers. as i started reading i got the feeling you may be a person of faith. i did some research and you are! anyhow, after reading thru some of your blogs just wanted to say that as an avid reader i appreciate that i can read a novel of this caliber without the glamorization of sex, foul language, etc... you capture the depravity of man just fine without all that! i also found that you describe yourelf as a hiker. I have a group of friends who like to call themselves (me too) "hikers for Christ" - this is good because more often than not we find ourselves in situations where we need Him just to get home! conditions in the Smokey's in winter are BAD! anytime you want a well planned, poorly executed hike on the AT let me know!

Paula Millhouse said...

That Thriller's Round Table discussion was the bomb.
Seriously, what you and all the other authors contributed - pearls of wisdom...
Stories matter because they reflect what we know through others - and who knows - if the characters believe the truths between the lines - maybe we can too.
Maybe, just maybe, it's the Holy Spirit whispered through the words of the author.
Waiting impatiently for "THE QUEEN"...
Paula Millhouse