Stories are important to us as humans. We use stories to create connections, make jokes, and inspire action. We share stories to remember and to understand. But not all stories are created equal. Some stories are one-trick ponies meant to make us laugh or cry or simply escape for a brief time. These stories are important and necessary to our health and happiness, but then there are Stories.
Stories with a capital S challenge us long after we have put down the book or left the theater. Stories challenge us to read and re-read or to watch again. Stories inspire us to explore the ideas and questions they raise with others in a variety of media, because we are not ready to set these Stories aside. The experience and exploration of these Stories changes us in profound ways.
It is often a given that certain books or movies or productions are Stories. That is how we end up with a literary or theatrical canon, but we can find Stories outside the accepted canon, and, in fact, outside traditional literature and film courses. We can find Stories in comic books and graphic novels, blockbuster movies and television shows, and children’s literature, but the question remains: how do we recognize Stories? Here are three questions we can use to identify when a Story is more than a story.
Is the Hero on a Journey?
In Stories, the main character is on a life-altering journey that changes and challenges the hero, his or her companions, and the reader. Joseph Campbell identified this pattern of narrative in many forms from drama to myth to psychology and called it the Hero’s Journey or Monomyth. You can read more about it on the Writer’s Journey although I really enjoy the Glove and Boots version. Not only can you fit a Story into the Hero’s Journey pattern, but you can find many archetypes within the pattern.
Are the Main Characters Grappling With Big Questions?
Do the main characters ask and seek to answer the big questions that have always challenged humanity? These are questions about the struggle between good and evil, what it means to be human, and our ethical responsibilities. Do these struggles transcend the setting of the story and the time and place it was shared?
Does the Story Transcend Its Tag Line?
In Hollywood and New York stories are often pitched using memorable story synopses, but Stories reach beyond this simple description. Stories possess layers that can be discovered with each new telling. Stories are about more than one thing or one place or one event. In fact, I would argue that Stories transcend their characters. Yes, we care deeply about their fate, but a character death does not derail or end the story, because the Story is not about the character but humanity. The characters are simply vehicles to help us empathize and understand the journey.
Do you believe that some Stories are bigger and more important than other stories? How do you differentiate between a story and a Story? When does a Story become important?#Stories, #Storytelling