Story Theory and the Quest for Meaning

Story has been our constant companion throughout the journey of human existence. Why is that?

Modern audiences are inundated and entranced by advanced storytelling. But stories have been with us from as far back as we can remember. Is it because they entertain us? Is it because they inform us? Because they distract us? Yes, of course. But the very universality of, not just story itself, but our passionate connection to story would seem to indicate the human experience finds great resonance in the act of storytelling.

I do not think it too simplistic or idealistic a statement to say that storytelling is a quest for meaning. As creators and consumers of story (and, indeed, art as a whole), we all have personal connections to this. We often interact with stories, whether intellectually or emotionally, as a search for understanding. We turn to stories for catharsis, comfort, and catalytic challenge.

As Madeleine L’Engle put it in her Walking on Water (which is really a treatise on the whole concept of story as a quest for meaning):

This questioning of the meaning of being, and dying and being, is behind the telling of stories around tribal fires at night; behind the drawing of animals on the walls of caves; the singing of melodies of love in spring, and of the death of green in autumn.

As writers, we gradually become more cognizant of this than even the average viewer or reader. As we study the craft and technique of writing, we eventually encounter humanity’s collective ideas of story theory. These theories posit that there are certain patterns—which we generally identify by such terms as story structure and character arc—that repeat themselves over and over again to create the very definition (however loose) of what we consider a story at all.

When writers begin learning story-theory principles, we often tend to identify them merely as “rules for success.” But in recognizing that story itself is archetypal, these tools and techniques of the craft emerge as a fascinating meta commentary on the deeper questions of life itself.

Chaos vs. Cosmos

This post is an introduction to the introduction to the introduction (!) of a new craft series I will be sharing this year about foundational archetypal characters and character arcs (including but going far beyond the prevalent Hero’s Journey). Before diving into the nitty-gritty of this one specific set of archetypes and how you can use them to powerfully undergird the character arcs in your stories, I wanted to step back to the broader context. Next week, we’ll be talking more specifically about actual archetypes in fiction. But today, I wanted to talk about story itself as archetype.

Several years ago at a time when I was particularly needing, searching for, and redefining meaning in my own life, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s wonderful ode to the synthesis of art and spirit, Walking on Water. I resonated deeply with her notion of why it is that humans are driven to create and to tell stories. She said:

…the artist is someone who is full of questions, who cries them out in great angst, who discovers rainbow answers in the darkness and then rushes to canvas or paper. An artist is someone who cannot rest, who can never rest as long as there is one suffering creature in this world. Along with Plato’s divine madness there is also divine discontent, a longing to the find the melody in the discords of chaos, the rhyme in the cacophony, the surprised smile in the time of stress or strain.

It is not that what is is not enough, for it is; it is that what is has been disarranged and is crying out to be put in place.

She recognized art as an ordering principle by which humankind strives to understand its own existence:

[Composer] Leonard Bernstein tells me more than the dictionary when he says that for him music is cosmos in chaos…. all art is cosmos, cosmos found within chaos…. There’s some modern art, in all disciplines, which is not; some artists look at the world around them and see chaos, and instead of discovering cosmos, they reproduce chaos, on canvas, in music, in words.

The Cosmology of Story Theory

The more I study story theory, the more I have come to recognize it as something of a cosmology all its own—a microcosmic commentary on existence. In short: an archetype.

As such, what we write (sometimes consciously, usually very unconsciously) is often surprisingly explicit in its ability to offer us answers and meaning in our questions about life.

For example, modern writers often tend to think of story structure as a format we apply to our stories. But, in fact, story structure is an emergent. It exists and it works—and we recognize it as such and try to apply it to our own stories—because it reflects truthful patterns about life itself.

The same is true—perhaps even more poignantly—for character arcs. For me, researching and writing my book Creating Character Arcs was a personally life-changing experience that provided insights far beyond writing. The character arcs we recognize as archetypal resonate with us as readers and viewers for the simple reason that they are patterns within our own lives.

And so it goes for even more “mythic” archetypal journeys, such as the Hero’s Journey made so famous and ubiquitous by Joseph Campbell and George Lucas. These mythic story structures are endlessly repeatable because they do endlessly repeat in every single one of our lives. (Don’t particularly identify as a Hero? Doesn’t mean you haven’t, or won’t, take the Hero’s Journey in your life, among many others.)

This is why L’Engle can say, about writing and reading, that:

Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully. The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort toward wholeness.

She quotes her professor Dr. Caroline Gordon as saying:

We do not judge great art. It judges us.

Meanings, Patterns, Symbols, and Archetypes

Story theory is eminently practicable in supplying writers with techniques they can apply to improve the resonant power, and therefore success, of their stories. But this is really just a byproduct of the theory itself, which focuses on recognizing emergent patterns within our ever-growing body of stories. These patterns then contribute to our ability to recognize those particular symbols and archetypes that appear over and over again, almost universally, rising far above time, place, genre, or even thematic intention.

Laurens Va Der Post pointed out:

…without a story you have not got a nation, or a culture, or a civilization. Without a story of your own to live you haven’t got a life of your own.

At their loftiest level, the emergent patterns of human stories tell us something about all of existence. But for most of us, these patterns are most poignant when they help us tell our own stories—not just those we put on paper, but those we are living every moment of every day.

We may think of stories as something separate and apart from life itself—particularly in this day and age when stories are more accessible and abundant than ever and we most commonly interact with them with the intention of entertainment or distraction. But inevitably story is not separate. Indeed, perhaps the modern era has seen the line between story and reality grow more blurred and meta than ever.

Regardless, when we understand the symbiosis of art and life, we are able to simultaneously bring the patterns of life to the page and the patterns of the page to our lives.

L’Engle one more time:

…when the words mean even more than the writer knew they meant, then the writer has been listening. And sometimes when we listen, we are led into places we do not expect, into adventures we do not always understand…. one does not have to understand to be obedient. Instead of understanding—that intellectual understanding which we are so fond of—there is a feeling of rightness, of knowing, knowing things which we are not yet able to understand.

Humans interact with stories for many reasons, all of them valid. But deeper than the entertainment, the distraction, or the titillation—deeper than the characters, the character arcs, and the plot structure—deeper even than the themes of Willa Cather’s “two or three human stories”—there is the resonance of story itself as a foundational archetypal reflection.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a plenty good enough reason for me to make story a constant companion for the rest of my life.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Why do you think you were first drawn to stories? Has that changed over the years? Tell me in the comments!

Go on the journey with your characters! Check out the Archetypal Character Guided Meditations.

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Eric Troyer says

    Interesting. I look forward to the new series. I also have a question. Other than Joseph Campbell’s book, I have yet to find a more scholarly book that looks at story theory, especially structure, across history and cultures. Most of what I’ve read are musings about current Western story theory based largely on the writer’s own experience. So, have you read any scholarly books that look at story theory in a more academic and broad way? If so, do you have any recommendations?

    • You might come at it from a different angle: myths, religious motifs (e.g., flood motifs), folktales, and fables. That’s where Campbell drew the Hero’s Journey mythic structure from, and that’s where you’ll continue to find other structures. The Heroine’s Journey comes from folktales. Such stories span cultures, and and influence the stories they tell and the way they tell them.

      To give an example, a linear eschatonic view of life, as in Judeo-Christian belief means that you live and you die and there’s an afterlife and that’s it. This belief system yields a soap opera titled “One Life to Live.”

      But in a cyclical eschatonic belief system of reincarnation such as with Hinduism, your soap opera is going to be titled, “Your Best Life Now” or some variant because you live, you die, you may be reborn and start again.

      The Japanese use a story structure called kishōtenketsu, which is used in the West to tell certain types of horror stories (usually urban legends) or slice-of-life stories.

      In that structure, a character is minding their own business, then a twist happens and they must react. The character has no initial goals, because in Buddhist belief you must be free of worldly desires. This structure does not require conflict as such, either; it’s about transformation of perspective.

      At any rate, you might have better luck by searching out comparisons of worldwide fables, folktales, or myths.

      • Carol Painter says

        That’s very interesting and thought provoking Jamie. Thank you.

      • Eric Troyer says

        Thanks Jamie.

      • Think of the diverse Indian tribes and nations. They contain their histories in thousands of years’ worth of oral stories. We denigrate them by terming them merely fables, folktales, or myths. These tales are equally valid alongside our own recorded histories.

        I am talking to Governor Patrick Aguino of the Ohkay Owingeh nation who lives in the San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico. He is a storyteller and teacher of their Tewa language. We will visit in person in September.

        The mystery and appeal of story fascinates me as a writer. A lifetime of learning in the years remaining to me is my goal.

        Thank you, Kate, for this profound series on character arcs.

        • I’m not exactly sure why its considered denigrating to term Native-American oral histories as fables, folklore or myths. Just don’t anyone mess with my cherry tree.

          • Fair enough. I do have a little story to share. I lived with a full-blooded Comanche for six months. He was the first of his tribe to get a Master’s degree. We were both engineers.

            I’ve always had a strong interest in Indian archaeology and have a little background. I highly offended my roomie when I brought the subject up, and he gave me a friendly lecture.

            His points were that these people on the plains were his family and ancestors who had a right to remain undisturbed, as do people buried in our cemetery.

            My point from the first comment is that peoples take their so-called fables, folklore, and myths very personally. These tales are as solid a history to them as the Magna Carta and Bible are to us. We must grant them the same tolerance to their beliefs as we want for ours.

            Thanks for your reply.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      There are many resources about archetypes, but I haven’t run into many that I would say are specifically about story theory. Even Campbell’s is really more about mythos, not story theory per se, although the latter is easily extrapolated.

    • In my search for youtube videos discussing archetypes, I came across Jordan B. Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning” classes (recorded at the University of Toronto and Harvard), and that led me to actually buying his first (and very very dense) book, of the same name. Amazing stuff, and discusses the issue of order vs chaos.

      • Eric Troyer says

        Thanks Rick. I’ll look into it.

      • Prof. Jordan Peterson gets a lot of criticism because of his academic advocacy of traditional values. I find his analysis to be thought-provoking. If you listen with an open mind, you don’t hear the politics that so many try to affix to him.

  2. Harald Johnson says

    Wow… just… wow. Can’t wait to see how this new series develops, Katie.

  3. Louis Schlesinger says

    Good morning, Katie, and thank you for a post that’s provocative and lyrical. It takes me to the beginning, our origin story. For me personally, that’s the Bible, but there are multitudes of humans seeking meaning whose origin stories aren’t Judeo Christian.

    Voltaire said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” I’m certainly no theologian or philosopher, but I think what he meant is that whether one *believes* or not, we need story to exist as much as air and water.

    As far as your new series goes, I feel like Oliver Twist told Mr. Bumble. “Please, I want some more.”

  4. Put most simply…Stories are trees from which we hang knowledge. The story is a sequence of events that we use with words and imagery to reveal an adventure, an emotion, a history, a lesson, a character…a story.
    Storytelling is the oldest form of communication/education/healing in the history of mankind, dating back to the “Storyteller” (the shaman) around the campfires of prehistoric or primitive villages. The stories painted or drawn on the walls of caves in petroglyphs, on animal skins and in the oral tradition, were man’s first form of education, communication, entertainment and healing, far predating the written word.

  5. Matteo Masiello says

    There are some memories etched into one’s mind and not subject to constructed or false memory. I was 10 and bored. Didn’t feel like playing with my toys, shuffling baseball cards, none of my friends were around and didn’t want to watch television. And didn’t feel like reading. I asked my father to give me something to do. He said, write a story. So I did. The story was titled It! (with the exclamation point because I wanted it to matter. The story was about a thing from space that came to earth and was terrifying people. Mind you, I had not seen The Thing from Another World yet (not until I was older) but was a fan of science fiction. So that’s what I did. I wrote a story. Then I was hooked, or cursed, and wrote more, creating a series of interconnected stories which led to a climatic one with all the characters I created until then. And some standalone ones. I’ve been trying to figure out which ever since. I was only thrilled by Star Wars: A New Hope and Hammer horror movies, Japanese Kaiju movies and whatever was on television at the time and what I read. It was a thrilling adventure to enter into the world I created but once I was there, it was more mysterious to explore, more so that my knowledge of the world at the time. It was a way to conjure and intense and unique emotional response to boredom.

  6. One largely overlooked reason story has been our ‘constant companion’ is that it is the original operating system of the human brain. Language came along much later but so successfully colonised our minds that we have lost sight of how storytelling predates it. To see what I mean, look at children watching a Tom & Jerry cartoon. There are no, or almost no, words but even the youngest child has no problem following the story simply from looking at the pictures. Storytelling is the method the brain uses to make sense of the world. We have a super-abundance of sensory data coming in from our ears, eyes, sense of touch etc and in order to synthesise it and make sense of it all we make a story out of it. Fundamental to storytelling is the notion of causality and by positing causal links between events we are able then to make predictions about the future and thus navigate the crazy world successfully.

  7. Ritchie Way says

    Thank you once again for encouraging me to look at the art of writing with fresh and profound perspective.
    I was in my late 20’s and experiencing love loss when everything within me begged me to put pen to paper and express my emotion in poetry form. I’ve since found myself at times unable to fully concentrate on my planned activities until I sit down and write the ideas that are bursting to be placed on paper.

  8. First, you have explained to me why I cannot simply “plot” my books, as I would so dearly love to. (Your Story Template in Scrivener helps a great deal, by the way.) It’s because, as you said, story theory is both a structure imposed on a series of events (your idea fitted into story theory = a plotter’s story) and a story grows out of a series of events (story theory superimposed onto to your idea = a pantser’s plot). I guess I’m more the latter, or a combination of both (plot fitted into story theory, which is superimposed onto plot, and so on). Does that make sense?

    Second, story theory explains the conspiracy theories floating around. People crave a story to make sense of chaos, and a conspiracy theory, a “secret” story, fits the bill.

  9. Many years ago there was Snoopy cartoon where Snoopy was complaining about the loss of meaning in his life: “The stars have no meaning; my bunny books have no meaning” and so on.
    In the final frame Charlie Brown comes out with a bowl of food and Snoopy perks up and exclaims “Ah, Meaning!”.

  10. This is a really good one.

  11. Suzi Holland says

    Thank you for the inspiration. You reminded me how I was first drawn to story. When I was a kid growing up in a conservative home, it was apparent that their beliefs were insane. This inspired me to keep a journal. I still have that journal. Truth and love became my mantra that developed over the last 60 years! My novel titled “Bitteroot” is not just a place in Montana, but holds the dramatic symbolism of the protagonist’s early violent childhood. Her parents disowned her when she fled down her own path.

  12. Usvaldo de Leon Jr says

    YASS!! Can’t wait, let’s do it!

  13. I named both my first plant (an ivy) and my first child (who is now 13) Madeleine. Mostly because of the book Walking on Water. I love that you are introducing it to new people. <3

  14. Interesting parallel to my current study in the philosophy of science. People must see patterns in the data, or stories in their life events. These patterns are how we can handle the chaos of evidence by making theories that generalize current events and predict future events about what to expect in life. Those expectations, when true, calm us and allow us to trust ourselves. I can see “story” as that striving for pattern, and why plot events, particularly the conclusion, must be (paraphrasing you) “surprising but logical after the fact.” With this in mind, I should be able to make my stories more powerful, more compelling.

  15. I don’t know . . . I guess what first drew me to stories was imagination because I was a little actor, and I also liked being able to make up characters in my own fictional place since in real life I had no friends, and especially in school.

  16. Somewhere in my childhood I discovered there were those that had bigger imaginations than I did. I am forever grateful for that experience that planted “what if?” somewhere in my subconscious.

    Looking forward to more. Thanks for sharing your many journeys…

  17. Busy Izzie says

    I’m excited to learn about archetypal characters and arcs. Madeleine L’Engle has written some great fiction. I’ve only read the Wrinkle In Time series, so now I’d like to read Walking on Water. After looking it up on the internet it sounds very interesting. The quote about “disarranged” things “crying out to be put in place ” completely makes sense. It parallels the scripture that talks about creation groaning in pain, waiting for redemption from the Lord. I also liked the quote that story can be a way to live “life creatively instead of fearfully.”

    I’m excited for the next post! Have a great week!

  18. “‘We do not judge great art. It judges us.'”

    I find this statement very true. Every time I finish reading a story, I automatically compare it to how I live my life, no, actually I compare it to myself as I read through it. And when I work on my own writing, I automatically bring in something of myself. I get attached to the characters, only because I want to see how the character is judged because I am somehow a part of the character.

    In a way, we begin writing a story with a question and even we, the writers, do not know how the character will be judged for we ourselves are the ones who asked the question in the first place, usually subconsciously.

    I started writing because I had nothing else to do. I don’t know how old I was, maybe seven or eight. I was bored and I didn’t want to read a book, which is what I usually did when bored. So, I wondered if there was any way anyone could possibly understand how I felt and if anyone would even be interested in hearing about my life. So, I wrote about a character who had absolutely nothing to do… and after two or three pages, I quit. It created a challenge for me. I was challenged to write a story that was interesting, where the character wasn’t just sitting around writing because she was bored. The question was: Could I? That became a basis for the theme I’ve created my stories around for a long time. It would always start with the character asking “could I…”. It questioned my ability to do something I felt I needed to do, and through characters, I saw if I could.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “In a way, we begin writing a story with a question and even we, the writers, do not know how the character will be judged for we ourselves are the ones who asked the question in the first place, usually subconsciously.”

      This is really well said.

  19. Kathy Crabtree says

    Your thoughts of how archetypes also define the storyteller was insightful. I didn’t realize that my needs were being met by my characters. The heroine in my cozy mystery seeks significance – solves the mystery- finds what she was seeking. I feel somewhat insignificant, too. I write about how my hero finds worth- and I,too, am now a significant storyteller!
    Reading your blog titles always intrigue me – but I always end up learning something much more meaningful than I expected- appreciate that. Thanks

  20. Looking forward to the new series! Exciting!!!

  21. Paul Adkins says

    The notion of an existential connection between the story and us is something I have often pondered about. I am a huge fan of Shakespeare. When I think of his tragic protagonists – Lear, Macbeth etc, the thing that is often discussed is how these stories are more dramatic because the characters are “larger than life”. They are kings and princes, not ordinary folk like us. How do we identify with these people of exalted station? Because at the end of the day, they are still human. Their frailties, the weaknesses that eventually undo them are well known to us. Even though we might say, “Oh, I would never be so vain as Lear was, or blind”, the truth is that we are equally capable of making the same mistakes. The character arc works because it’s clearly drawn, but the character works because he is me, whether I admit it or not.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Characters like Shakespeare’s kings make for wonderful archetypes via their very largeness.

  22. first timer here!
    I think I was first drawn to story just because my brain is a spinning vortex of crazy ideas that i feel like I have to write down. Going back as long as I can remember I made up stuff like comics for people to enjoy. I just started writing this past November (I managed only 10k words) and realized the truth about me and writing
    once you’ve realized writing is like a cave of infinite treasures, once you’ve experienced the adventure of creating your own set of characters and had to look to your own hopes and fears, you just can’t see yourself and the world the same way. I feel like it’s a gift. Its the gift of endless possibilities.
    it’s a gift few people see and fewer people use.

  23. Ivy Daylind says

    I made up stories all the time when I was little–I think my imagination just wouldn’t stop. And I’m still that way. I seriously feel that channeling my imagination into stories and other creative works is the best way to manage it. Stories also help to satisfy my need to see conflicts resolved and evils overcome.

  24. Carol Painter says

    I’m excited about this new series too. My first memory of story was maybe aged 3 and snuggling up in bed with my father while he created and told my brother an I stories about Fluffy the Cloud. I don’t remember anything about Fluffy’s adventures but I do remember how delicious the entire experience was.

  25. I was SO excited to see the title of today’s post, because it feels magically serendipitous coming at this time. My current WIP is the first ever where I feel like I have a good handle on the book’s theme, and the most important word in the thematic statement is “meaning.” Indeed, meaning is what the character needs, even if it’s not what she starts out wanting.

    I love this post and am looking forward to the rest of the series!

  26. Anthony Marin says

    My third grade teacher’s assignment was to write a story , any story , and recite it in class .
    ” Just make one up ” she announced .
    Everyone appeared intimidated , except for me
    I felt tiny tingles of micro-energy on the surface of my face .
    Excited , I thought about it on fast feet to my home .
    I knew it would be easy to create a story , with Halloween shortly approaching .
    My imagination was lit .
    ” I’m gonna write a story with sound effects and spice “, I thought to myself .
    It made so happy to hear all my classmates laughing out loud .
    Yes , I wrote the best , and won first prize .

    It begins after graduating H.S. that I lost my disinterest in reading .
    Probably because now I can read more of what I liked , than school books .
    Oddly enough , I didn’t start writing until I began Journaling in my early thirties .
    From there it hopped onto me doodling fragmented memories .
    Now , I find writing so therapeutic , I relax with the editing while sitting on a hardwood chair and writing on a five by five pinewood table .

    After twenty years of first being introduced to J.C. , he is still one of my very favorite authors

  27. I’m not sure how much writers should care about the ‘Hero’s Journey’. Here is an interesting article about the topic:

    I guess it is as good way to craft a story than some other, but I would like to see more stories done in other ways.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I don’t particularly agree with the article, but the upcoming series will be dealing with different types of “journeys” other than just the Hero’s.

    • “I’m not sure how much writers should care about the ‘Hero’s Journey’.”

      I read the article. It’s pretty interesting. As I’m learning more about the Hero’s Journey, I’m not sure I quite agree with everything either. My way of thinking about all of these methods of writing and theories is that I’ll listen as objectively as I can, try it out, and use it if it feels right (and as vague as that sounds, it seems to be working).

      “I guess it is as good way to craft a story than some other, but I would like to see more stories done in other ways.”

      To that, I have to agree with. Old methods and theories may grow… well, old. And people are always coming up with better ways to do all sorts of things. Of course, I have to admit that it’s not like fiction has died because of these methods, so obviously something in it is working.

      I know you didn’t ask for my input, but I read that article and I felt like I should give my two cents worth.

      K.M., I can’t wait for your new series!! : – )

  28. Mary George says

    For me, once I started reading, I just kept going. Any compilation of paper with big, hard writing on the outside and thin pages on the inside was a curiosity. I still feel that way. Whether carousing a book store, catching up on lithub or reading the first pages on amazon.

    It is a pull, a magnetic field of sorts, of voices all clamoring to be heard, even whispering among themselves, something like “Hey, you. Yeah, you. I think you’re going to like my story . . . it’s about this man who finally leaves his family behind to travel the world, only to discover the plight of homesickness when he’s in the beautiful French countryside.” Or, “Hey, lady. I’ve got something for you . . . this young woman, a ghost, won’t leave the house she grew up in until the love of her life returns from the war.” Or, “Psst. Over here. Mine is a real heartbreaker. This college grad accidentally runs over a kid, and after the kid dies the mother takes him under her wing, to make sure he moves along in life.”

    I think reading a good book is like breaking bread at the dinner table. On one hand, it is a personal experience, and yet we know that others have partaken of the same stuff. There’s a kind of communion there, a give and receive between writer and reader–and that just never gets old. It’s why I’m now more inclined to read literary fiction instead of thrillers. One man’s poetic human condition is another man’s sustenance.

  29. This is a fascinating direction to take our thoughts. I love your paraphrase of L’Engle that, when we are writing well ‘we are able to simultaneously bring the patterns of life to the page and the patterns of the page to our lives.’
    As I get older I see more that story is a language that we all understand at some level. We feel the solidity of the story path with our feet, even when it is beneath the water that we wade through. That structure is there, and we implicitly reach for it.
    And story seems a natural shape for information; that shape makes the information more absorbable by the hearer.
    The central quest for meaning resonates with me. I have, over the last couple of years, been re-evaluating/challenging what I’ve built my life on. I want to feel with my toes that presence of a shape, a structure. So much that is said and done has the solidity and strength of a meringue. I’m looking for more.

  30. Janet DeCastro says

    Enjoyed all of the insightful comments!

  31. I just wanted to share that up until now I had never really known the answer to why I loved reading so much. I had heard over and over again this idea that like watching television or movies, reading was merely a form of escape from the day to day. That sort of became my ‘belief’ for so long, but after listening to this episode, my perspective has completely shifted.

    What if my love for reading was actually due to my endless curiosity? my search for meaning and belonging in both my personal life and the world at large?

    Of course as a kid, I don’t recall ever questioning my love of books, it feels like it just kind of happened naturally because bed time stories were a big part of my childhood.

    A few years ago I picked up pen and paper and began writing again. At first I wrote in my journal as a way to help me process my emotions in the hopes of better understanding myself. Journaling allowed me to zoom out and notice the patterns and to see the ‘bigger picture’ of my life and the experiences I was going through. There’s nothing like reading a year’s worth of journal entries, which has become a makeshift New Years tradition of mine.

    Anyways, I am not 100% sure how to articulate this newfound perspective yet, but I look forward to listening to the rest of this series and catching up on past episodes! I’ve only just discovered your podcast, but I am glad I did 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s funny how we often praise children who read for “being smart” and “educating themselves,” but as we grow older we often start to feel that reading is somehow not the best use of our time. :p

  32. Anna (Ana) Russell says

    Perhaps story first captured me when my Grandmother Ada read Piggly Wiggly and other stories to me. I May have became a story-teller as a preteen. And then I began writing narrative, some of which Was published. Every person has a story; every story must be told. That’s why I am now a ghostwriter for people who want to record their life journey but lack the skill of getting it on paper.

  33. I am so in. Do your thing K. M..

  34. Very intrigued and excited by this new series!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks for stopping in!

      • I enjoyed this article the first time I read it and even more now, revisiting it. Always enjoy the comments your readers leave too. I am thrilled to know there are so many other people out there who also speak the language of story. 🙂

  35. My parents were both great about reading to me at bedtime. But there were those nights when they were too tired to read the whole thing and you know kids will not let you skip anything. They solved half the problem by teaching me to read at age three. Since then I’ve been a book junkie, I can’t pass a bookstore or an online sight without a purchase. I also began writing rhyming poems in grade school and made up stories by the time I reached junior high school.
    I expanded my knowledge of writing in college and actually got some poems published. I think story telling is a way to understand ourselves and the world. It’s an artistic version of scientific study. Why is the world and the universe like it is? Are there other people out there? What if you could talk to animals and birds or they could talk to you. What are those creatures thinking about, etc.


  1. […] M. Weiland discusses story theory and the quest for meaning, while Laura Drake advises trusting your […]

  2. […] Story Theory and the Quest for Meaning […]

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