I’m a sucker for stories.
It hasn’t always been this way. I didn’t really like reading until 6th grade when I picked up The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and devoured it on a Sunday afternoon. I have a soft spot for princess stories especially, and that book was a great gateway into having piles and piles of books.
The thing I love most about a story is its versatility—the way they say different things to different people, and their ability to bridge gaps of cultural or social understanding.
Stories can be really freakin’ powerful.
College taught me how to read literature and communicate (English and Strategic Communication—whoop whoop). And one of the most fascinating lessons that I learned was how when people have differing worldviews, the best way to reconcile those is through story.
The power of a story comes through its ability to speak words you never said. I can tell you I’m a shy person, but it says a lot more if I tell you about all the times I’ve been laughed at for saying something wrong. You can argue all day about politics, but the moment someone starts telling their story, people shut up to listen, and there is compassion.
Our stories tell a lot about us as a society—our values, our fears, our desires. They define us as a culture, and as people.
Buried in this is a kind of superpower. It’s the kind that makes me curl my imaginary mustache, because stories can be used in a lot of sneaky ways. You might not even realize that the most successful marketing campaigns are stories. Companies appeal to you through story, whether it’s your own or someone else’s (bonus points for them if it IS your own). This is why, even though I’m a creative writer, I lean toward marketing in my professional life. If I can pique your interest, if I can promise you a good story, chances are that you’ll buy. Or give. Or even share with some of your friends, and word of mouth is the best I can hope for as a marketer!
The way I’m most interested in these stories, though, is to remind people of their humanity. We can’t judge the people we don’t know, even though that’s something all of us like to do. But seriously, walk a mile in their shoes. Don’t have access to their shoes? Pick up a book and spend an hour or two in their head.
It’s such a beautiful thing to me, and it’s one of the reasons that I encourage everyone, especially youth, to read. Maybe you don’t find all this as interesting as I do, but I hope, at the very least, you can see the value in it.