It’s in our blood, it’s in our bones. Storytelling is how we raise our children and how we relate to each other. As soon as we learn the language, we repeat the stories we’ve been told and then make up our own. Since the beginning of time, cultural identity has been kept by stories around the cooking fires and in history books and, make no mistake, we are just as addicted to stories now, as we have ever been.
We avidly watch our favorite television shows and movies. Even sporting events are made into stories. We watch raptly as our team makes an agonized drive down the field, the suspenseful build-up to a touchdown, moving the plotline along to the climactic (or sometimes weak) game’s end. Meanwhile, smaller story arcs contribute to the richness of the tale; the background stats, the injuries suffered, the contract disputes, the athletes’ childhood struggles, the memories of great players past.
We look for meaning in our newscasts, in our songs, and even in billboards read along the roadside. There is one I saw a while ago, an eight foot close up of a steaming wok with vibrantly fresh vegetables flipping up one side and into the air, the caption: ‘Don’t try this at home.’
It wasn’t one story, but the beginning of many, a prompting imaginations of bored commuters.
“Why not try that at home? I cook all the time, flip my vegetables, my eggs, my quesadillas whenever I want. Just last night, I got air with my burger and a little flame on the side…”
“Wow! That’s great! Just like when we went to the Japanese restaurant and the guy with the knives and flat grill…”
“Yeah, ‘don’t try this at home,’ sure. I remember when Joe saw a car commercial and decided to try THAT at home! He still hasn’t gotten the Charger’s axle fixed…”
We’re so keen on stories that we’ll make them up with the least provocation, our brains chewing over the details, inner eyes watching as fictional landscapes take shape.
There’s no limit to our hunger for a good story and, whether we look to the newspaper, to the television, or to a book for our story jones, it’s the writers’ job to intrigue us, to entrance us, to invite us into their heads and show us something wonderful.
It is a trust given to writers, to not only tell a story, but that it will be a good story, one that can entertain us even when we’re away from the screen or the printed page; maybe while we’re driving to work, at least when there aren’t any billboards.