Why truth is in stories
“What is truer than truth?”, asks writer Isabel Allende at the very beginning of her TED talk, below. “Answer: The story.”
I think that’s why I’m a storyteller. I take all these disparate events and I have to connect them. I have to make them seem inevitable and yet surprising and plausible. That’s what I think life is like, too. I have the luxury to do exactly what it is we all need time to do, and that is just think about the mystery of life.
And how similar to a less poetic author, Dan McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern who has
a life-story theory of identity, which argues that modern adults provide their lives with a sense of unity and purpose by constructing and refining self-defining life stories or “personal myths.”
It’s all about the story, in other words. Human beings remember and understand things only insofar as they learn them in a story.
The absence of such a story is what, in my opinion, limits so many non-fiction books. They have an idea or a thesis, but don’t wrap it into a story. So people read until they get the basic idea, then drop the book at page 50. After all, once you “got it”, why waste your time?
In my book, I’m trying to do the opposite. It is non-fiction, but true stories can be more suspenseful and surprising than fiction. And there is an idea, but it comes out through the story.
This is also my main rebuttal to my mom so far, who worries incessantly that I am giving away too much of my secret sauce in this blog, for some anonymous villain to steal it all. What, I keep thinking, would he (or she) steal? The idea without the story? Good luck. As Allende said, you need the story to get the truth. So, mom, for now I’ll keep blogging. Let me know what I’ve overlooked.