Universally and unquestionably, stories are the foundation of human culture. We have told each other stories since our ancestors learned to draw figures on cave walls with burnt sticks, and we will continue to tell each other stories until homo sapiens cease to exist. Every entertainment is a form of story: books, movies, music, television, sports . . . each holds an element of the fantastic. But what draws some of us to content ourselves with listening, through whatever medium we prefer; and others to become weavers of tales?
It is the only real magic we humans possess. A story can transport us somewhere that is not reality - the places we go may be better, or worse, or very much like our own reality; but wherever the story takes us, we feel something. The feelings that stories generate enrich our lives and amplify our existence.
I may claim to write for money, for the love of creation, for fans (ha!), or for a myriad reasons that are put forth by writers from every era and of every genre. However, the underlying reason - the only reason, really - is to evoke that magic, that transportation that is given to me through stories. I put everything into my craft, in the hopes that I can somehow translate that magic into words for others to use and shape into their own brand of magic.
I recently read a post on a writer's forum from a software programmer concerning this extraordinary effect of writing. He stated that programmers actually have a term for the period of transition between the world of story and the world of reality; that period of time when you're still there with the characters you've just visited (or walked in their lives), when you can't quite remember that you're really just a person reading a book, and not a boy wizard or a vampire hunter, a detective or a sleuth. Programmers call this transitory phase "context-switching," and will sometimes tell each other that before they can hold a conversation, they need a few minutes to "reboot their personality."
Stories are beautiful, powerful things, to have such an effect on us that sometimes we must make a conscious effort to leave them. I write because I want to draw people into that zone, and let them experience something different, something amazing.
In conclusion, I'll share with you a passage from a WIP that I'm not sure I will be able to finish any time soon. It is an opening that I hope proves transportive, at least for a moment.
He stood behind a windblown tent flap in the dirty gray light of early morning, watching two women with bright blue slickers and sour expressions struggle against lashing rain to bring down a great banner that spanned tall poles. Circus of the Night. Startling Shows From Dusk Til Dawn. See The Infamous Freakstravaganza – The Largest Collection of Human Oddities Ever Assembled. Conquer Your Fears in the World-Renowned Rumble Room. Fortunes Told and Games of Chance.
And in ominous red letters across the bottom: No Children.
Children. He thought the word described him, though he recalled nothing before this moment. It was as though he’d sprung into existence here beside the tent, a slender boy of thirteen or so, his mind churning with fragmented knowledge and powerful emotions that didn’t belong to him. Wet to the bone, and hungry—but not for food.
Shouts peppered the air from various points on the grounds, mixing with the rain and the rumbling diesel engines of the rigs parked around the perimeter. The mélange of sounds beat back the confusion in his head. Gradually, he became aware of sensations outside the cold of his soaked skin. A hot, jagged sting stitched his chest and arms. His legs throbbed beneath him.
Anger dominated his heart, and fear. The fear was specific, but made no sense . . . a tall, scarred man. Clear purple stone. No memory attached itself to these objects.
He blinked rainwater from his eyes and watched the struggling women. They’d managed to release one side of the banner. Now it flapped and fluttered in the powerful wind like the tail of an angry rat.
He had no idea why he knew what a rat was, or how it moved when it was angry.