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With apologies to The Killers.

The history of human communication is an interesting one, from an anthropological perspective. The idea that people told each other stories – to stave off the demons in the dark (or to bring them to life), to explain their visions in the sky, to keep close the triumphs and tragedies of their brethren – has always been lovely to me. I think it’s one of the main reasons why I first tried putting pen to paper, to preserve the ideas in my head, to answer the questions I wanted answered: Who are we? Why do we do the things we do? What hopes exist for us, out there in the vast wilderness?

The Storyteller

Photo by Keizers, via Wikimedia Commons

Stories aren’t just about creating characters or putting plots into motion. They’re ways to examine the world around us. Which is why it saddens me to think there are writers, directors, editors, artists out there worried only about the next big thing, ways to capitalize upon the latest trend. People unconcerned about the story,when it’s the story that moves people.

Katniss Everdeen isn’t just a kick-ass fighter; she’s got a story. Batman isn’t just a gritty super-detective; he’s got a story. Henry Jekyll, James T. Kirk, Frodo Baggins, Spike Spiegel: what makes these characters great – frightening, masterful, inspiring, entertaining – is not just what they are but the role they fulfill within the greater story. Without Primrose, who is Katniss? Without his rogues’ gallery, who is Batman? That’s what engages readers and followers: the story around those characters and their world.

I tell stories I want to tell. It’s one of the reasons I’m so horrible at collaboration, I suppose. But the storyteller needs to create worlds that interest him. She needs to (try to) answer those questions weighing on her mind. He needs to fall in love – at least a little bit – with his story. We can put the manuscripts away when they’re done, but I think we’ve got to pay attention to more than just the cookie cutter basics that have been made popular.

Do you agree? When it comes to your latest/current work, what is it about it that drives you to tell that story?