“Stories are as hard to create as they are inevitable; good ones are as elusive as they are necessary to hungry souls” – N.D. Wilson
Theories abound as to what makes us different from animals (some would say we're not). It's not that we have society, or technology. Animals have both of those, in some fashion or another. Some would say it's our intelligence. But wouldn't that just make us really smart animals? So what's different? What makes us human?
The answer is more simple, and profound, than I ever imagined myself before I became a writer. We're different because we tell stories. We imagine, we revel in the made-up, and we use stories as tools just as much as a hammer or a nail.
"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." - Rudyard Kipling
We are a story-telling species, from authors to reporters to your ordinary mom and dad telling bedtime stories to their kids. Why are we this way? I believe it's because we're made in the image of a storytelling God. All of history is one big story, a story he fashioned from the beginning. We revel in our connection to him by doing what he taught us -- telling stories. Now, whether you share my belief or have your own explanation as to why, the fact remains that:
“…we tell stories to know who we are–to understand ourselves and our place in the world. It’s as though all of our stories are a way for the imagination to poke at the human condition, testing its borders and depths, looking for ways to understand the why behind the what of our lives…” - Mike Cosper
And stories don't just tell us about our lives, they don't just help us understand. They change us. You are, in part, shaped by what you read, watch, and listen to. Stories have the power to change history.
So what are we, as writers, to do with this knowledge? First of all, it should put on our shoulders a weight of responsibility. Not a responsibility to write any certain thing. Rather, a responsibility to remember that our words have the power to change, and we want that change to be positive.
Theme, as all writers know, is an important part of any story. It's essential to know what your theme is, and to express it clearly throughout the tale. Whether you're writing for a cause, for your own pleasure, to be famous, or answering the call of hungry fans, your theme speaks to the purpose of your story, and theme is what connects to the human heart. Theme and meaning can be found in every single genre and story type, from horror to comedy and from literary fiction to sci-fi/fantasy.
My personal tag line is "Changing the world, one story at a time." I use stories to entertain, while also teaching important life lessons, encouraging questions, and the seeking of answers. My goal is for each reader to finish my stories a better person than when they started. Or at the very least, one step closer to understanding who they are and who they were meant to be. That's a pretty lofty goal, and every day I despair of living up to it. But I'm a writer. What I do helps shape reality, society, and history, so I refuse to give my readers anything less than they deserve.
Who are you as a story-teller? What are your goals, and what are you trying to say in the stories you tell? Words have power, and we are responsible for how we use them. So speak, and write, with a purpose.
Lydia Sherrer is a published author who does a bit of everything from archery to art, to music and costuming, though her main passion is writing fantasy fiction. To learn more or subscribe to her blog visit www.lydiasherrer.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.