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When you consider all the books that there are, and that so many of them are fictional, it does make you wonder what has drawn us, as a species, to come to tell stories. We have myths and legends of incredible creatures and magical lands, epic tales of heroics and travel, stories of romance and love, all spanning the centuries from the spoken word of those gathered around a fire to what you can download on your kindle today and read immediately.
It seems that in a lot of ways, we are compelled to tell and listen to stories as a safe way to learn, whether we are learning about ethics and behaviour or examining other fundamental issues such as politics, death, love. Unlike the classroom where lecturing is dull, the story presents you with characters you can learn to love, or hate, or something a little more complex. In the story people can behave badly or perfectly, they can take bold risks and make cowardly moves: every human emotion, action and thought is on display and open to interpretation.
We love stories so much that we don’t just write or read within our native tongues, either. Books in translation are hugely popular, offering different cultures and ideals without any of the ‘othering’ preamble that often comes when cultures are written about in other languages. A great example of this is the Chinese translation of Finnegans Wake, a novel that is barely readable in its original English and yet did remarkably well once translated, albeit with plenty of explanatory notes.
Even better, it seems is the ability to read texts in their original language as well as the translation. Bilingual people tend to have a better way to understand other cultures and see things from other people’s point of view. This is a huge advantage when reading, or writing, because intention in language is different depending on which language you are speaking. Fluency in language is a subconscious skill that we are mostly unaware of, something that AJ Hoge’s Effortless English exemplifies in his tutorials and videos. If you have to think about that language, it doesn’t as easily convey a subtle message.
Understanding what makes people want to read, or listen, to stories is crucial in understanding what makes people want to write. For a start, people, like lots of animals, love to play. We like to take things apart and look at how they work, or design and invent new things to solve problems. People are compelled to create. Writing is much the same thing. Once you have a passion for reading stories, it is likely that at some point you will consider attempting something similar.
Listening to a story being told is pleasurable but once the story is written, it cannot be changed. Writing a story, on the other hand, puts all the control into your capable grasp. You get to choose the themes explored and the characters who populate the narrative. You get to decide what happens next…