Why There’s No Such Thing as “Just a Story”

Every so often, I will hear someone say, “It’s just a story.”

Most often, I hear this said in situations in which a story is being critiqued. In response to comments that a story failed to reach its potential because it lacked theme or plot structure or strong characterization, a person might insist, “Well, it’s just a story.”

Usually, the sense I get in these situations is that the person enjoyed the story well enough and doesn’t really appreciate hearing how it might have been better. But in other instances, a person might respond to someone else’s elation over a wonderful story experience with the same words: “It’s just a story.” Or maybe, “It’s just entertainment.”

Readers of this site will find it no surprise that I adamantly disagree with this notion.

First of all, I will state my recognition that what is really being said in these instances usually has more to do with personal subtext for the speaker (e.g., maybe they enjoyed this story even if it “could have been better,” don’t appreciate a critique that might diminish their own enjoyment, and don’t want to feel they have to measure their own opinions and experiences against the parameters of “good fiction”—which is all fair enough). However, I feel this statement or any equivalent is not only erroneous, but perhaps one of most the dangerous lies humanity can tell itself.

Why? Because this statement attempts to diminish story to irrelevance. To me, it is saying stories are empty calories. They exist merely for fun and should therefore not be expected to offer any value—or bear any responsibility—beyond that. Although writers may sometimes be guilty of saying this phrase, it is more likely to emerge from an audience member. But to my mind, whatever its source, it is an attempt to shrug away the weighty burden that is inherent to story by dint of the form’s sheer power.

4 Reasons a Story Is Never “Just a Story”

Whether as creators of story or merely participants, when we interact with story, we interact with a mighty, even primal, force. Even in its smallest increment (such as a 10-second YouTube commercial), story has the power to change us. Even at its most seemingly fluffy and farcical (such as a popcorn comedy), it is communicating with us. As stated in a Hopi proverb (and also by Plato, but I like this version best):

Those who tell the stories rule the world.

This is not merely a challenge for us to be the ones who tell the stories. It is perhaps even more tellingly a warning for us to recognize that whenever we interact with story, we are facing a catalytic force. We might rephrase the famous Carlos Casteneda quote about knowledge to speak instead of story:

A man goes to [story] as he goes to war: wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to [story] or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it might never live to regret it.

Today, I want to take a quick look at why story is so important and powerful—and, as such, demanding of our utmost respect.

1. Stories Are Life, Life Is a Story

What are stories? Nowadays, we tend to think of stories as parts of that highly specialized commercial enterprise known as the entertainment industry. But before there were movies or novels or even poets, there were simply people trying to bring sense to existence. Life is the story. Every one of the entertaining or enlightening little episodes that humankind has ever thought up is only ever a small reflection of the infinite whole.

Therefore, to my mind, when someone says “it’s just a story,” what they are also implicitly saying is, “it’s just life.” Discounting story discounts life.

I don’t say that lightly. And please note I am not saying that disliking certain stories or types of stories or critiquing them is the same as discounting story itself. Indeed, having strong opinions about the commentary stories offer to life—both in their content and their execution—indicates just the opposite. To care that a story is not an authentic mirror of life, that it is does not resonate, or even that it misses the mark here and there, is to simply to reaffirm its power to shape us, as well as our great passion for interacting with that power.

I mused recently on Instagram about why it is that people take stories so personally. As I write this, I now realize that, of course, this is why. We care because a story is never “just a story”: it is an affirmation or rejection of life as we know it. Indeed, the art and practice of bringing consciousness to our own reactions to stories and of learning to judge stories with precision and clarity is itself a powerful life skill and even a tool of self-development.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by KM Weiland (@authorkmweiland)

2. Story Form Is an Accurate (But Evolving) Map of Human Consciousness

You may note that I often speak of “story” (singular), rather than simply “stories” (plural). I use this phrasing deliberately to evoke the entity of not just stories in general but story formthe emergent archetype of arc and structure that we refer to when speak of stories (and which I have explored in depth in all of my books on writing and particularly the brand new one Writing Archetypal Character Arcs: The Hero’s Journey and Beyond).

Writers often tend to go meta on story form and think of it merely as a tool that helps us write consistently competent stories. If only we can learn and memorize the principles of plot structure, character arc, and theme (amongst a plethora of other techniques), then we will have mastered story. But all of these “forms” preexist the writing guides. To paraphrase what Stephen King has said of his own writing process, these writing guides were not invented as arbitrary rules for writers, but rather “discovered,” like dinosaur bones waiting to be excavated.

The only reason writing “rules” (aka, patterns of story theory) exist is because they are, in fact, an attempt to understand and map the experience of our human consciousness. Not only does this make story our ultimate testing ground for experimenting with our own understanding of ourselves, it also reveals the specific essence of story’s great power.

Stories “rule the world” precisely because they both reveal and influence how we experience the world and indeed life itself. This is true of every story—from the crudely farcical (if no less finely wrought) commercial to the wobbly B movie to the beat-perfect romance novel to the eye-candy popcorn movie to the Pulitzer-winning literary novel to the avant-garde indie film.

3. Stories Are Humanity’s Mirror

Most obviously, stories wield power because they mirror back to us our own experiences and shadows. Story is a magic mirror. Whether we realize it or not, what story shows us has the potential to profoundly affect our perception of ourselves and the world.

This is, arguably, where it becomes most important to reject the idea of “just a story.” What, after all, is story showing you? When a story is not finely wrought—when it is sloppy or inaccurate in its portrayal of the form and therefore of life—it fails as a faithful mirror. To the degree audiences are willing to accept an unfaithful mirror, it creates the potential for imbalance both within individual lives and society as a whole.

Even the subtlest story, or the subtlest scene, is sharing something with its audience. I think of the scenes of silence in Hayao Miyazaki’s films, in which characters simply gaze—for what may seem like long minutes to our modern minds—as the clouds pass by. One moment, no dialogue—and yet it is still powerful.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Studio Ghibli.

4. Stories Are Subliminal

Although this list could go on indefinitely, I will close with one final point about why stories are so powerful—and that is their ability to communicate directly to the subconscious. As such, they are subliminal, whether authors intend them to be or not.

Because most of what is communicated to us in a story happens at this subliminal level, this is where the vast majority of a story’s power sits. Stories affect not just conscious thought and emotion, but mood and energy. Humanity’s hardwired understanding of story form (plot structure, character arc, etc.) is so innate that we interact with it even when neither the author nor the reader/viewer possess any conscious understanding of the “rules.”

Of course, this power is recognized by many writers. The subliminal power of story is purposefully used by storytellers of all stripes—including advertisers and propagandists. In fact, the recognition of this subliminal power often inspires authors to try their hand at wielding it themselves. We can right all wrongs if only we can powerfully communicate to audiences our perspective! But I’m not suggesting this as a pounding pulpit for one’s own view of morality—because, again, the power here is subliminal, arising most powerfully not from the messages spoken in a story but from the form itself. (Indeed, what authors sometimes think they are saying in a story might be completely undermined or altered by the story’s own subtext—and the subtextual message is always the more powerful.)

What About Stories as Entertainment or Escape?

So what about stories as entertainment or escape? If people whose insist “a story is just a story” are wanting to avoid the heavier ramifications of interacting with or creating stories, does that mean any interaction with or understanding of story must be heavy?

Of course not. Indeed, one of the most powerful aspects of story is its ability to entertain. That, in itself, is proof of story’s subliminal power to affect emotion, mood, and energy. The subtlety and the subtext of the form are lost when the conscious brain is not distracted by something that piques its interest and entertains it.

More than that, the reason we are entertained by these often exaggerated facsimiles of life is for the very reason that the human brain is entranced by life. Many studies, such as those mentioned by Jonathan Gottschall in his book The Storytelling Animal, have shown how stories help us learn and grow and, indeed, survive. Although escape from the present can often be part of the heady cocktail that is story immersion, stories are, in fact, all about helping us better equip ourselves for our survival of reality.


All of this is to say: no one will ever ever convince me there is such a thing as “just a story.” I have witnessed its power. I have lived it. I have breathed it. I have been utterly transformed by it time and time again as both author and audience member. It is a sacred force. And like all that it is sacred, it is no “tame lion.” Particularly as writers and creators ourselves, we best wield that power for our own good and the good of others when we go to it with our eyes wide open and our hearts ready to grapple with its truths.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What do you think is the most powerful thing about story? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in Apple Podcast or Amazon Music).


Love Helping Writers Become Authors? You can now become a patron. (Huge thanks to those of you who are already part of my Patreon family!)

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

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. With the occasional story from when I was a child still influencing the way I think as an old person I would have to agree.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think it’s often the childhood stories that stay with us the longest.

      • Something like the imprinting that day-old chicks experience – the first thing they see becomes Mama. If they see a hen, she’s Mama. If they see a human, that’s Mama. I remember many specific details from so many of the early books of my childhood – most of them about animals – like ‘Black Beauty,’ ‘Beautiful Joe,’ the Uncle Wiggley series, the Thornton W. Burgess books about North American wildlife – dozens of marvelous books! They have definitely enriched my life.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Totally. The books and movies of my childhood are still the ones I internally reference most often.

    • Yes! Reading the Narnia Chronicles at age 8 changed my perception of Jesus Christ for life.

  2. Eric Troyer says

    Interesting post, Katie. When thinking of the importance of things, I often think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Story does not rate with physiological needs, but it quickly comes to play with esteem (and probably belonging and love). We are a story-telling species. We tell stories about ourselves. Stories told by others often impact the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. That makes a huge difference in our lives. (And I just realized I’m now telling myself a story in which I think I know what I am talking about!)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I do think there’s an argument to made that stories *do* rate with physiological needs, in the sense that early stories (and even many today) give us guidance to physical survival.

  3. The importance of story revealed itself to me during the pandemic. I watched before my eyes as people shattered from the pandemic, their sanity still not restored even today. But I held on by a thread when I should’ve fell under too. Why? Cause I realized God sent me the stories I needed to hang on. Every trial I go through in life, I’m gifted with a new story, whether a book or movie or video game, that’s EXACTLY what I need to experience right then. During the pandemic, I held on through the power of a story I’d just gotten into a month before the pandemic started. Different stories all have their own power. Their own lesson. And each one, no matter how structurally terrible it is to everyone else, will impact at least one person in a significant way. And that realization is what motivated me to become a writer in the first place. I hope to help people like stories have helped me.

    • It’s definitely God talking to you when He consistently puts things in your path that you need RIGHT THEN. It happens to me all the time. We are blessed …

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally. The synchronicity of some of the stories that have come into my life at exactly the right moment leave me awed and humbled.

  4. Colleen F Janik says

    Thank you for this powerful post. So true and so thought provoking. I wonder who is responsible for the transporting all this treasure to the reader. If the reader completely misses the point, yawns, and tosses the book aside, is it his/her shallowness or did the reader somehow miss the mark in planning and writing the book? I’ve been a part of so many book clubs where the circle of participants would say the book was boring. I always made it my mission to point out what I saw as the purpose and value of the book. Many times the other participants in the group were surprised when I described to them the value that I appreciated in the novel.
    I wonder if readers now are less willing to experience the reading experience on a deeper level. I wonder about some of the ‘readers’ who are not reading, not interacting with the written word, but only listening to the book while distracted by other activities.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I wrote a post a while about talking about how reading is a skillset that manifests at varying “levels.” It requires a certain amount of experience (which often requires a certain amount of discipline and intention) to become a reader who is capable of interacting with and appreciating certain higher levels of literature. Obviously, writers bear the burden of responsibility in creating meaningful reading experiences; but it *is* a partnership. Readers have to be willing and able to rise to the level of the writer.

  5. A short story that still resonates with me, 20+ years after I read it online, was by a Romanian, about a cockroach who has fallen in love with a middle-aged woman who occupied one of the apartments in the building that the cockroach inhabits. Utterly absurd, but utterly charming! Whodathunkit?!

  6. Your point reminds me of one of the Granny Weatherwax stories by Terry Pratchett. I think it’s “Wyrd Sisters” where Granny and Nanny watch a play (Macbeth, with the serial numbers filed off). And Granny is disquieted because she realizes the theatrical portrayal of witches is going to reign over reality in the minds of the audience. Audiences who don’t know the Lancre witches in “real life” are going to think the Macbeth version is the true version. That the painted boards vaguely shaped like trees will be more “real” in the minds of the audience than reality itself.

    Stories do have a power, this is why different groups of people fight over how they’re portrayed in different media. Seeing Uhura in Star Trek TOS really did pleasantly shock some people in the 1960s, because she wasn’t a maid or subservient (or crude and inarticulate), even though she was both a woman, and black. The actress, Nichelle Nichols, said MLK convinced her not to quit the show because Uhura was so inspiring to kids who only saw themselves portrayed a certain way.

    On the flip side, I once had a film class where we discussed the concept of “responsible storytelling.” Michael Moore came in as an example of irresponsible storytelling, because his then-recent documentary apparently portrayed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as sunshine and lollipops. Thing is, I’m from Metro Detroit, which is where a lot of Iraqis live. So many that the casting director for “Three Kings” specifically came here to recruit actual Iraqis to be in that movie. There’s a reason the Iraqis moved here rather than remained under Hussein’s regime … class got a little salty that day 🙂

    Moore and the pseudo-Shakespeare in the Weatherwax story used the power of storytelling to present untruths in a way that was plausible to the unsuspecting. Roddenberry used storytelling to present ideals in a way that rings true and inspires others. A lot of engineers credit Scotty for getting them into engineering, and astronaut Mae Jemison said Uhura really did pique her interest in space when she was a little girl. Some survivors of kidnappings reference Nancy Drew when explaining how they managed to keep their cool and escape their captors. Use your storytelling powers for good, everyone!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      And this is why I love Pratchett so much. Speaking of using storytelling for good, he was unparalleled at creating absurdly entertaining stories that slyly interjected deep examinations of society. No other author makes me laugh out loud as much as Pratchett does, but he is truly one of the most profound modern writers I’ve ever read.

  7. One of my favorite books of all genres is Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It’s about why some people survive extreme situations and others don’t. A significant part of the book is about story form/structure because, guess what, people who can tell themselves better stories are more likely to survive dangerous situations, such as a plane crash stranding them deep in jungle/mountains/etc. One of the key features is that people who cast themselves as heroes who are helping/protecting someone else (even imaginary friends) are more likely to live than people who cast themselves as self-pitying victims, even when they are in the same dangerous situation.

  8. Victoria C Leo says

    YES, yes, yes! That ‘just entertainment’ makes my head explode! My two graduate educations – anthropology and psychology – probably appealed to me because in explaining humanity, they explain how our brains evolved to respond to stories. The why more powerfully than the how. Yes, the Nazi propagandists spent 8 years continually telling their evil explanatory-frameworks (stories) and succeeded in changing public opinion away from decency. But even more of the positive changes in history came from the same mechanism! Badshah Khan turned the fierce, warrior Pathans toward a non-violent fight against British dominion (responded to with worse violence than anything in the USA or in Hindu India) by continually telling his Muslim listeners, with quotes from the Quran, that God wanted them to fight with soul power, not with guns. It was amazing and inspired Dr. MLK more than Gandhi did. That was a story!

    I write science fiction, which is easily trivialized. Yet this future fiction has been a force in social change. I don’t overtly preach, I am creating dilemmas and solutions than engage, but my own ethics and philosophy drenches every page. It has to. Writing comes from my soul, not my surface.

    And all that nonsense about imposed structure – thank you for stomping on that! A story that engages us grabs us at the basic operating system of the human brain. [Neurologists love doing papers on this, LOL.] Waverers in the US North became committed abolitionists because they read a story. It rewrote their fundamental mental OS. Every powerful, compelling story has a basic structure, whether it is high drama (yeah, me) or two people talking to each other on a park bench for two hours. The structure that we respond to is in our DNA; our brains click in to a pre-designed response when that structure is done well. We writers read your books to learn how to do it but once we do, we can know that we are ‘on track’ or not, because our emotional GPS, trained by you, always knows when we’re on the trail or we’re lost in the woods.

    Since I’m already way past length, let me add: First time I ever had to just throw out 100 pages and start over. #6 novel in the series just wasn’t going right; I knew it was wrong intuitively. That uneasiness may not be a Katie-gift. But knowing that it was the THEME that was wrong, that I could not edit, had to start over with a new outline, THAT was the result of my education! Katie, your work gave me the solution to my dilemma. My human story-GPS knew that I was lost in the wilderness; the writing education told me what to do to find the trail again. Things are falling into place nicely now, because with the right theme, my sled dogs are pulling me rapidly toward Nome…… not Vladivostok! I’m carrying the serum, no lives lost, whoo-hoo!

    THANK YOU!!!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s great!

      In reading what you wrote (agree with it all!), it made me realize how unique it is that this emotional GPS you speak of can steer the reader true in either of two situations: either when the story itself isn’t resonant, in which case the reader’s internal GPS can recognize and reject it, but also when the reader’s own GPS is off, in which case the story’s more accurate map helps with recalibrating.

    • Elizabeth L Richards says

      I’m coming late to the party and I wanted say that your passion for story is wonderful to experience.

  9. Your blog post resonates for me, Katie, because I’m currently writing a memoir covering my first 28 years of growing-up confusion, and it is both a story AND is it my life, exploring, as you state in point #2, my evolving state of consciousness and attitudes toward life. The first draft was easy – just write out all the good (funny, weird, emotional) stories I could think of as fast as I could. The second draft is much harder and slower – looking for meaning and theme, re-evaluating my behavior in some of those experiences, trying to make sense of things in a way that is meaningful to me and to a reader. It’s a humbling experience in that identifying story threads and meaning in all of this chaos is a challenge, and because I’m grappling with the need to change the story of my life from the one I’ve always told before to the more enlightened one I am discovering in the rewrite.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve toyed many times with writing a memoir, and what always draws me up short is exactly what you’re talking about here–the need to find a cohesive theme and the arc from amongst the *many* themes and arcs of one’s life. Memoir is high art–in many ways much more difficult than straight fiction. All the best to you!

  10. The flip side of this is that stories are dangerous. Stories do indeed influence people. Lurking behind acts of brutality are stories of disgust and treachery. .Polarizing political and social issues are aggravated by narratives showing simple solutions to complex problems.
    So, yes, stories need to be taken very seriously. Frankly, I’m not sure they have on the balance been a positive for the world, or are so at the moment. You’ve got to have a lot of good to overcome the mound of corpses generated by the stories we’ve told ourselves from the beginning. The Nazis had stories. Slave owners had stories. Eugenicists had stories. Communists had stories. War mongers had stories. The left has stories. The right has stories. The challenge is to not let our stories become these stories, and the answer is not good intentions.
    Being an author is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. I think you have to write with humility and more than a little respect for the limits of your knowledge.
    Sorry for the heaviest post you will see for me, but this is something that really sat on me a few months ago and I’m frankly having trouble picking my way out.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Being an author is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. I think you have to write with humility and more than a little respect for the limits of your knowledge.”

      I 100% agree. But the only thing that can fight story is story. This also exactly why we each bear the responsibility to constantly examine our stories–both those we engage with from the outside, but also those we project onto others and, inevitably, write into our novels and screenplays.

  11. BL Albina says

    I am going to turn forty on my birthday this month on the 26th. I am also writing a children/ya book and also planning on learning how to drive. My current project I am working on has a messenger goddess in it who also has six siblings: sisters.

  12. sjhopkirk says

    Replying in particular to Victoria’s vantage (but what engagement on this post already with such depth of sharing) – indeed right on – could maybe even add the peaceful transition out of apartheid due in part to Story (and the two near future scenarios written and published by: Sunter, Clem. (1987). The World and South Africa in the 1990s. Human & Rousseau Tafelberg Publishing.)
    Goes also to the notion of telling a story to yourself and building up our mental models you might appreciate. These allow us to do the most amazing things. Babies have been saved from such models: when things just don’t quite fit the narrative on the floor. Thinking of a certain nurse’s story of what a healthy baby should be looking like at certain moments. Or yes escaping a captor Nancy Drew style – awesomesauce for sure.
    You mention DNA. The study of epigenetics looks at how a surrounding influence, and our behaviour toward it, effects us literally [punny] right down to how our genes work – not a base change – rather a reversible addition/overlay to our DNA but one that can persist as we will it so…
    In the case of Story, each contains a diegesis – this is the narrative embodied. This can become a system to be studied by epigenetics when we give over our willing suspension of disbelief – fully entering the diegesis – i.e. giving over to the story-world and all the impacts it has on us. We are thus physically changed by Story – as neural changes occur – some temporary, some persistent.
    If this is at all interesting you might be interested in Dr. Angus Fletcher’s work of Project Narrative out of OSU. One of his works is used by the US Army General command to help soldiers improvise, adapt and overcome in battle using story – especially when things aren’t going to “plan” as a soldier should assume. His latest book called Wonderworks (2022) takes us through history of story as only a literary major plus neurobiologist can. (Malcom Gladwell was floored by it which is not easy to do.)
    BTW, Doc Fletcher might like that quote modification Katie about engaging war or story – I sure do. I’ll be citing it also in my own doctoral dissertation…
    And Katie, whoa, dropping the gloves !! If there ever was anything worth fighting for – I agree it’s for each and every one’s story – fact or fiction. I see Ukraine all fighting together for THEIR story to ensure it persists in history. I think accessing each of our own stories, (perhaps releasing it into a fiction to take the pressure or glare off given your points above on telling our own stories), can help in so many ways. It did so for me in the most surprising of ways – and I did in fact change, even though it was “just” a fiction based on true events and historical backdrop.
    If anyone is interested: Katie has more episodes on this note about the depth of power of Story. This is an unauthorized curation, but each of these also shows us how story affects & effects both the reader and the writer – apparently right down to our DNA – literally. [Couldn’t resist] episodes: 348 + 349 + 434 + 471 + 481 + 491 + 496 + 499 + 501 + 503 + 505 + 532 & now 624 ! ; )
    Thanks All, especially Katie.

  13. If anyone that tells you “it’s just a story” needs you to cook for them, prepare dinner by opening a tin of baked beans, a tin of pineapple chunks and a packet of cornflakes. Dump the contents of all three into a bowl. When they complain, tell them “it’s just food”.

  14. Ian Murphy says

    Emotion. If you can bring a strong emotion within your reader then that is worth the effort.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, if you can make a reader feel something, you’ve tapped a deeper level.

  15. Roger Preston says

    Sorry I’m late to the party but I had to say something on this. I realize it is super convenient and easy to jump on this band wagon, except, I have been riding this wagon for more than half my life now. As someone who reads enough and has watched thousands of movies, I am a hunter stalking and searching for the next story told well. Whether book or movie I’m seeking out that elusive interesting character with extra interesting things to say or ways to exist in their world – roles that are written/acted out well and dialogue that makes my breath skip, my insides giggle, my eyes water, and my oxygen level rise. It’s a rush when it all comes together, and I know it the second it happens…in that moment I adjust myself and sit up in my seat (and there’s usually a small grin on my face).

    Thing is, I think we could all agree it is kinda rare. Because of that, I double check myself to make sure that I am giving the story it’s due…am I giving the theme enough time to stew within? If it doesn’t, I give myself permission to move on.

    Also, with so much media at our fingertips, our need to “get stung” is much less tolerant of time and the need to be drawn in is much too quick these days. Which brings me to the point of why your post IS so, so important: 1) As writers we much stretch ourselves to learn the skills of how to tell the very best story we can. 2) We must capture it in the most interesting word play we can dream up. 3) We must share it with others and accept their likes and dislikes. 4) And most important, we MUST write so that others can feel human, to let ourselves and others know we are alive in this time and that we are all very much alike, and yet so different!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally. Writing a story is an incredibly complex artform. So much is involved in creating a story that fires readers on multiple levels. It’s difficult for good reason, but so worth it.

      • Roger Preston says

        And let me add that I’ve always appreciated your attentiveness to responding to us wannabe’s (Lol). I think we try to articulate something to say, attempting to add our two cents here and there, but when you respond, it gives us hope that we are chasing the right process and that we matter.
        Just to say it doesn’t go unnoticed – Thank you!

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Aw, you’re kind. Glad it’s meaningful! I always appreciate the conversations here.

  16. This!
    When a story is not finely wrought—when it is sloppy or inaccurate in its portrayal of the form and therefore of life—it fails as a faithful mirror. To the degree audiences are willing to accept an unfaithful mirror, it creates the potential for imbalance both within individual lives and society as a whole.

  17. Yes! Story is powerful. Our nervous systems are affected by stories as if the story is actually happening to us, which is why we laugh, cry, or become tense or angry while reading or viewing a story. As Lisa Crohn says, we are wired for story. I think story not only engages the imagination, it activates it. And that leads to empathy, which leads to understanding, which leads to connection. Of course it’s powerful. I’m grateful for the comment that resulted in this article. Well done!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I think story not only engages the imagination, it activates it.”

      Beautifully said!

  18. I am deeply impressed with the response to this post. Obviously it was greatly needed. I think I need to save not only the post but all the comments and replies – yet I hesitate to do so, because they keep coming in! I’ll keep an eye on it for when it slows down (if ever!).

    Thank you, Katie!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Story is kinda like food. We don’t like it when somebody messes with it. 😉

  19. Jonathan Davis says

    Thank you for a passionately articulated post. I realise that excellent advice concerning the mechanics of writing stories (‘the buried dinosaur bones’) are for those who wonder how to tell stories in the best or most effective way, based on the desire to communicate.
    Sitting around a fire before there was any entertainment as we know it now, in a cave with predators on the prowl outside, whiling away the night telling stories, how this person or that managed to hunt some prey that seemed an almost miraculous feat, to be remembered and retold, perhaps with a few embellishments until it turned into a myth. Stories are the only thing that give us a sense of identity and of ourselves because it gives us a feeling of agency in the world and being able to make a sense of it. Stories and sharing them is perhaps the most fundamental element of being human.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Stories are the only thing that give us a sense of identity and of ourselves because it gives us a feeling of agency in the world and being able to make a sense of it. Stories and sharing them is perhaps the most fundamental element of being human.”

      So very true.

  20. Stian Kallhovd says

    Loved this post! I think it’s very important that storytellers and audience members understand and are open to the power of stories.

    In one section, you wrote about how stories are an affirmation or rejection of life as we know it. I appreciate that you later on also emphasized that stories help us expand our perception of the world — that we can learn new things about life through stories.

    I think it’s unfortunate that some people consciously or unconsciously only approach stories to affirm their own perceptions of life, but I certainly understand the need for stories that “understand the reader/viewer”, when the reader/viewer is going through a difficult situation.

    I aspire myself to tell stories where characters clash on their philosophies of life, and where the audience will have to choose for themselves whether to agree with the perspectives of the heroes or villains. Currently working on such a story in the fantasy genre! 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think the most powerful stories are often those that people enter exactly because they are familiar–and yet they transcend those familiar tropes to gracefully offer perspectives from farther up the spiral.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.