Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Purpose of Stories

Why do we tell stories? In the old days, people used stories to pass knowledge from one generation to the next. Some of these stories were true; some were not. People would sit down and listen as the old-timers would spin their yarns. The younger generations would remember these stories and they would repeat them to their children and grandchildren. We tell stories because we remember stories.

We don’t have as many storytellers these days. Instead of telling our stories, we write them in a book, hoping that someone will read it. When they do, they remember our stories. But the question we must ask ourselves is whether our stories are worth remembering. Often, we tell stories for entertainment value alone. That’s okay, but where is the true value if there isn’t something to learn form the story. A story is a powerful tool for relaying information and assisting with memory. At the end of the day, if a story doesn’t do that then it is wasted.

The theme is very important in a story. I don’t mean the point. The theme permeates a story, influencing every action, but too many authors set out to make a point rather than to build a story around a theme. When we base a story around a theme, we present many sides to the issue. The protagonist may be initially opposed to our claim, then he may move that direction, only to face opposition. That’s what stories are about. But when we try to make a point, we put our claim out there and we avoid any suggestion that there may be a valid reason to oppose the idea. We tell stories to teach truth, but we should never use them to make a point.