Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Do We Write Stories?



We are made of stories; our history, our future our present; an ongoing story of our journey and everyone’s journey. We write to make sense of our lives, to give meaning where there is none and to glean all the meaning we can from an inexplicable event. We write to make ourselves whole, to find the parts of us we have lost or never knew—like when we search for our genealogy—we need the story behind our life.

While at the Left Coast Crime Writer’s Conference this past weekend, I was struck by what mystery writer L.J. Sellers said on one panel. As a news reporter she often became frustrated while trying to complete a written piece when she couldn’t find out all the details of what happened and why. It was out of that frustration that she came to write mystery novels so she could tell herself the part of the story that was missing.

If we think about why we write and get deeply reflective about it, it might just give us the voice and perspective we need to make our stories deeper, richer—more fully imbued with meaning. 

I have been thinking about discussions of late about classic fairy tales and the TV shows picking up on the interest (Grimm is dark and unsettling, taking its cues from "horror movies and serial killer thrillers" 

and Once Upon a Time is lighter and whimsical, evoking Harry Potter.--Fall TV: Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm") Why are we drawn (or not) to fairy tales?

I found a very thorough article on, Do We Need Stories? in the New York Review of Books by Tim Parks where he examines different novelists answers to that question. He made the point that as a writer we tweak the stories so that they are right for us. Perhaps that explains why some people are drawn to one or the other of the above mentioned series on fairy tales—so different in their focus and meaning. And why some people don't care for fairy tales at all. But, something deeper is going on and if you want to read more, go to the article here.


Why do you write stories? Have you thought about it?

Why do you write the genre you write?

What you are trying to tell yourself?

14 comments:

Tami Clayton said...

Thought provoking post, Cora. Why do I write stories? To give a voice to the ideas and thoughts in my mind that I'm usually too shy or otherwise reticent to share out loud with world. I can shape and mold and edit and delete and add to it until it's just what I want to convey. And, I write because there's something in me that drives me to get it down on the page. Without writing, I would most likely be much crazier than I already am. :)

Cora said...

I think that is true for me as well--to give voice to what I am too reticent to share out loud. Somehow we get brave after we have written it down and then are able to share it. Some writers never get to that stage. Thanks for your comments.

Diana Brandmeyer said...

Why do I write stories? I think it's my way of witnessing without being obnoxious. :) Plus I can't stop writing. I've tried.
Diana
www.pencildancer.com

Sara Walpert Foster said...

I think I write stories for two reasons: 1. I love words and have always been fascinated with the idea that depending on the way you put words together, you can get very different meanings, and 2. growing up, there were always so many secrets around how my family came into this country and what their experiences were before they came. I asked lots of questions but always got only partial, not always accurate, answers. So, I started writing stories to figure it all out or atleast make something up that closes the loop for me.

Sharon said...

I like to write paranormal because I believe there is more to our existance than what our brains interpret, and I love to play with the 'what if' question. I also have a psychology degree, but don't get to use it, so I get satisfaction when I plot characters' development as they struggle to overcome the misguided beliefs that drive their internal conflicts.

elizabethfais said...

Joseph Campbell's theories are all focused on this question. As a species we seem to *need* stories, if only as a way to escape or way of dealing with life. I write stories because the creative process is so much fun ... and yeah, to escape the everyday too. ;-)

Mike Schulenberg said...

I don't really know why I write stories, other than that I have some stories to tell. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a novelist, but I stopped writing sometime in my early 20s. Then a couple years ago I had a sudden and powerful inspiration for a series of stories, so after a 20-year hiatus, I'm writing again. Fantasy was always my preferred genre to write in, probably because it's my favorite to read, but I'm also interested in other genres.

Cora said...

Can't stop writing? Me neither. Do you keep a journal as well? I've done journals since forever.

Cora said...

Our ancestors are a great source for stories. Recently I uncovered ancestors farther back than I thought possible. Now I have so many questions--I'll ultimately have to write about them.

Cora said...

I'm with you on that--"more to our existence than what our brains interpret." There's no end to the questions. Thanks for commenting.

Cora said...

Joseph Campbell touched on the heart of it--our need for stories. Loved listening to him when interviewed by Bill Moyers. Thanks for commenting.

Cora said...

So you knew as a kid you had stories in you. When I was around 10, my cousins used to beg me to tell them stories. I would make them up off the top of my head as I was talking--maybe that's where it started for me. I really like lots of genres-mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, supernatural, paranormal, sci-fi.

Judythe Morgan said...

Why do I write? What Campbell said, what Chris Vogler elaborated. The stories in my head, voices demanding to be heard. Like Diana, I tried to stop and it wasn't a pretty place to be!

Thought provoking post, Cora. Thanks for sharing.

Ellen Gregory said...

I ask myself this a lot... and I don't know the answer! I'm not one of those writers who has stories bubbling out of them, clambering to be told. But I do love the process of creation and exploration. I've always loved reading fantasy, probably because it deals with such big themes and I can explore a whole new world. I guess this explains why I write fantasy of all genres - it feels right.