By Christa Wojciechowski, originally published on The Writing Cooperative
Hello all! I hope you are having a productive creative week.
If not, I hope you are living to the fullest and taking notes until you get back to your WIP.
The Writing Cooperative published an article of mine last week. It is based on an essay I wrote for the virtual release event for Joseph Sale’s Dark Hilarity.
The transformational power of story fuels my writing as well as is the foundation for the Writers’ Mastermind.
This is for all the fiction writers out there.
You’re not mere entertainers.
You shape reality.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
How fiction shapes reality for both writer and reader
If you tell some people you’re a fiction writer, they think you live in the land of make believe. You’re a dreamer, an entertainer at best. Yes, we fiction writers like to dream, both while we’re awake and asleep. Sure, we like to indulge in our fantasies. And of course, we like to escape. However, there is a much greater part of it that many don’t fully appreciate.
Fiction Teaches Us
Storytelling is humanity’s way of learning, or recording history, of remembering the great ones. It is our way to warn, to educate, and to inspire. We pass on our wisdom to the next iteration of humanity, so instead of everyone having to learn all life lessons from scratch, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
The Hero’s Journey, the 5 Acts, the Epic Quest — you see it in everything we do—in marketing, in conversation, in our entertainment. As an outside entity looking in, you would think we are obsessed with ourselves. We tell ourselves stories about ourselves over and over and over again. But we are just trying to figure it all out. We are trying to get it right.
As we move forward, evolving as a society, as a species, and as individuals, story shapes us. Fiction is the vehicle. Reality is too close to our noses to see. Story is easy to understand and an engaging way to learn. This is why the wise men of ancient times spoke in parables. Myths, fables, fairy tales. Which is more effective? Telling a kid not to lie, or reading him the story of a boy who cried wolf?
Think about the books that most impacted your life. Were they non-fiction or fiction? I bet the first story that swept you away when you were a child was a fairy tale or an adventure. You aspired to the qualities of your hero or heroine. Later you might find other literary heroes to follow, ones who answer the questions that no one in your circle has the answers to. These writers become just as much a part of who we are as our parents, friends, and siblings. They help raise us, in a way.
Fiction Tells Us Who We Are
I remember the first time I read Dostoevsky. I was maybe twenty, and I had never read anything like it before. An angsty and lost person, I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so miserable and frustrated with the way the world worked. He addressed my feelings with a story, lurking suspicions that I never knew I had until his words crystalized them for me. It was indirect, not accusing. I could absorb the ideas, any resistance or denial diluted by the narrative. As he put a name to this unease, it comforted me. It was okay. I was not the only one, even more than a hundred and fifty years later. Not wrong. Not crazy. Maybe I could pick up the baton and take his line of thinking further.
We can be a mystery unto ourselves until we find the right story to tell us who we are, how we feel, and why. The right book is like looking in the mirror. This can be unpleasant, curious, frightening, or exhilarating. It can be life changing.
Books are spooky in this way. They defy the laws of time and space. You can connect with an author’s mind from hundreds or thousands of years ago. You can read the stories of someone on the other side of the world. A tale can be transmitted through air in waves of sound as we read to one another, a message that encompasses the senses, emotions, space, and time, communicated by the vibrations in the throats of our fragile, degenerating bodies. Fiction allows you to transplant yourself into someone else. As the writer, it’s like taking possession of a body. As the reader, you are taking another’s thoughts inside your head. It is a conduit of empathy. It is telepathy … Read more.