From before birth, children gravitate toward the lilting cadence of words strung together to impart a tale. Infants gaze, mesmerized by the captivating sounds of an adult recounting the day’s mundane events; for, regardless the subject matter, a story’s being passed along. Toddlers pause mid-bounce, half-eaten cookie gripped firmly in hand as their eyes fixate on Mr. Rogers’ face while he explains where to find the helpers. Procrastinating children beg to be a told a story on a chilly school night. Teens and young adults demand good stories with such numbers, they’ve created their own genres. This desire for a story continues through every stage of life and ceases only with the final beat of one’s heart. But …
What makes a STORY?
STORY goes beyond words. It surpasses even the message that’s being conveyed. It shoots straight to the heart of the matter—the connection.
If you don’t believe in magic, consider the moment a storyteller connects with his or her audience. In that instant, regardless of the supposed limitations of time and space, culture or class, region—even language, two people who may have never lived in the same millennium interact.
This connection transcends some chance encounter or brush of a sleeve. This delves deeper. It’s a meeting of the hearts. When a story passes from the Teller to the Hearer, so does a glimpse into the heart of the one imparting the message.
Once that connection forms, emotion tags right behind. In a lively chat with fellow writers on Twitter this week, I engaged an individual on the beauty of emotions, even dark ones, in writing. My ending comment was: “Emotion in the reader is the highest form of praise!”
The gist of our memorable interaction in the midst of the tornado of Tweets was that when the writer pours emotion into his or her writing, the reader will feel it. It could be anger, sadness, joy or hope, to name a few. Whenever a writer deeply, wrenchingly feels the words emanating from within, that connection will birth emotions that last far beyond The End.
As a result of such a bond, the reader must continue with some sort of reaction. This varies across Teller/Hearer pairs. Some readers barely blink while others erupt like an eighth grade Chemistry experiment. This is where we hear phrases like, “That book changed me.” or “I couldn’t put it down.” or “I have to read it again.” or simple awed silence.
Last week I finished a book that I didn’t want to end and immediately wanted to pick up again. I love it when I discover those gems! (In case you’re interested, it’s The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang.)
Other books latch onto me and continue to move me as I find ways to react to them in daily life. My life could be displayed as a timeline of books like these—these select stories that connect with me on the deepest emotional levels and pull from me the strongest reactions.
These are the books that reside on the bookshelves of my heart. These are the stories I long to create so they may live forever on readers’ heart shelves.
What books have hit this trifecta for you over the years? Which ones do you feel bonded to? What makes a STORY for you?