Base Instinct

evolution-406x226Why does the world need stories? I don’t know that we have a choice in the matter. Stories seem to be the thing that separates us from the animals. Forget about writers for a moment. Forget about books and movies. All of that is just an extreme extension of a base instinct. Even if you took that all the way, we are a story species.

When you see someone you haven’t seen for a couple of days, the first thing you do is tell a story of what you did last weekend. When you get up in the morning and look at the paper, you are reading a story. When you get in the car and turn on the radio, regardless of your listening preferences, you hear a story.

Our religions are based on stories, some of the most archetypal stories in history. Our philosophies are based on narratives. Decartes meditated in the form of narratives. Plato put forth his theories in the form of fictionalized dialogues of his teacher Socrates. Everything we know and do is based around a story, a dream, a narrative powered by aspirations and advertising.

Stories keep us wanting more. Stories allow us to believe there is something better than this moment or even something worse. Martha Nussbaum, a philosopher and author said that literature cultivates the “narrative imagination.” Her contention, which I believe, is that literature develops our innate human ability to view the world from a perspective different from our own.

If only for that, in this era of polarized opinions on tap, stories are needed. We are living in the era of stories. Blogs fly at the touch of a button. Books can circumvent a publishing process that used to serve as a gatekeeper of stories. We can’t eat without posting a picture of it on Instagram. We can’t watch a game without tweeting about it. Every minor moment of your life is Facebook-worthy, conveniently tagged to make sure that certain friends share your story.

Not only do we need stories, but we have become reliant upon them, addicted to a constant stream of information, important and trivial. Did you ever have an awkward silence with someone? That is the absence of story, the sudden realization that the constant ebb and flow of narrative has ceased. Is there any more uncomfortable feeling than that? That is an evolutionary, instinctual discomfort. Darwin taps you on the shoulder and says you are doing it wrong.

As a writer, it is scary. There are so many types of stories, with so many people telling them, that publishing and writing has changed entirely.

We, here at The Confabulator Café, along with our writing colleagues all over the world are embarking on a new frontier, shaky and uncertain. It could be the greatest time for writers in the history of our species. Or it could become an era where few make a living and the rest of us struggle to keep our words out there.

I don’t think any of us truly know where it is going to go. But one thing is certain. The world needs stories. As such, it will always need writers.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at www.jackcampbelljr.com.

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