The Value of a Worthwhile Story

The inherent value of a worthwhile story rests on the idea that a good storyteller shines a light on aspects of the human condition that most of us prefer not to discuss in our everyday lives. Yet if no one talks about such things, they do not vanish, they fester beneath the surface and affect our lives, both directly and indirectly. For example, the debilitating nature of depression hinders anyone from writing about it while smothered by its darkness. Even afterwards, when some light has returned, it may be too difficult to write down a personal memoir, partly due to the nature of the recollection and partly due to a fear of the stigma that is still attached to mental illness in a world where we should know better.

A storyteller can create believable characters, build a series of events into a plot, and weave a coherent narrative to illustrate the personal pain of depression and the insidious effects on those connected to the sufferer. There could be some personal experience woven into the tale, from whatever perspective, or the story may draw entirely on the lives of others, but the result is the same: a fictional dream into which anyone can fall and be taken on a journey that they have never made in real life. By the end of the story, any reader should have a greater understanding of the issue and hopefully have more empathy for the plight of those burdened by it.

Our shared life is experienced by each of us via our personal dream, which is full of conversations. A good storyteller adds another narrative strand, one that is constructed and coherent, devoid of the ragged edges and unlikely connections of real-life events, and which leads all who read it to better grasp some small truth about what it means to be human. If the stories you have read so far fall short of this standard, find the tales that offer you more than a formulaic plot and clichéd characters. The reward could be a better grasp of something that has been lurking at the back of your mind for a long time, and which you never thought able to discuss for fear of ridicule. The more we all talk about the human condition and the variety of different strands in our shared life, the better equipped we all are to face the next day. At its best, storytelling adds to this endeavour, and we have always known this, ever since our ancient ancestors sat around campfires and told each other tales.

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