Why Do We Tell Stories?

BooksWhenever I walk into Barnes & Noble and see all those thousands of books…

When I hear statistics like a million books published a year

When I look at the query section of my inbox …

When I attend a conference and meet with writers passionate to see their words in print…

I find myself getting all philosophical. Why so many books? Why do so many of us want to write? What is this thing inside us that drives us to want to share our truth with the world?

And of course (me being me) I come up with answers. I think that before there was the Internet, before television and movies, before radio, before newspapers, and even before books… (I am talking about the whole entire history of humankind, not just our lifetimes)… people have always connected with other people by storytelling. For some, storytelling means making up fantastical fables that illustrate truth metaphorically. For others, storytelling means sharing their own personal experiences and letting others be enlightened through them, or sharing what they’ve learned about history. For still others, storytelling means teaching, taking the lessons they’ve learned and relaying them to others.

People have always shared their stories verbally, with those in their extended family, with their friends, with their tribe. Before mass media or technology, the primary form of entertainment was talking to one another. Imagine Biblical times. Or a native American camp 500 years ago. Or even a Wisconsin farm family 200 years ago. The day is done, the chores are finished, the family is sitting around… what do they do? They talk. They tell stories. It’s how people have always connected with one another.

Men have been telling each other stories over campfires or in pubs or during the hunt… for thousands of years. Women have been telling each other stories while drawing water from wells or making quilts or birthing babies… for thousands of years.

As our society has become more fragmented and media-oriented, as extended families have ceased to be an important social construct, as individuals spend less time in face-to-face communication and more time in mediated communication, our need to both tell stories and hear stories hasn’t changed, but the way we fulfill that need has changed.

The need that used to be fulfilled by personal relationship is now largely satiated by less personal relationships. We maintain our friendships through email and text messaging and cell phones. We have relationships with the characters on our TV shows; with the radio hosts we enjoy; with the blogs we read; with our favorite newspaper columnists; and of course, with our favorite book authors.

We have largely replaced personal communication with technological communication.

We don’t just want to write and publish books. We want to be heard. To be known and understood. And we want to know and understand others. I think the desire to write and publish books is simply an extension of our very humanness.

What do you think? Why do we write and seek publication? Not necessarily you, personally, but we, as humans.

Posted in

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. lolly on June 19, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    I am very enlightened to hear your views i feel you are an amazing blogger 😀

  2. edison on August 31, 2012 at 12:53 AM

    well know ,thanks

  3. Relearning Writing | Write Anything on August 27, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    […] write because we want to be heard. Last year I came across this blog post and its message really struck a chord with me. It’s wonderful to complete something that I feel […]

  4. Tomas Wilson on June 21, 2012 at 6:02 AM

    Hello, I think your article was awesome!

  5. Angela Ackerman on May 30, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    It is a way for one to speak loudly without making a sound; a way for some of us to correct what we have said without being heard yet; and it is what seperates us from the animals. 😉

  6. Burton Haynes on March 26, 2012 at 2:26 AM

    I simply want to mention I am newbie to weblog and seriously loved you’re page. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You amazingly have remarkable articles. Cheers for sharing with us your website.

  7. fontanna czekoladowa on December 30, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    Superb website…

    […]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get a lot of link love from[…]……

  8. Daphnee on October 6, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    I write to communicate what I deeply feel inside, to express myself. This is a very insightful post. I love reading this blog!

  9. Lauren F. Boyd on September 28, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    “We have largely replaced personal communication with technological communication.”

    I totally agree with what you’re saying. I have thought a lot about this lately, and it really is a sad thing to me how many people don’t enjoy the company of real-life friends and family as much anymore because they’re replacing it with their computers and TV. I often put my writing and computer/networking time on hold in order to spend time with my family, who matter to me more than anything.

  10. Jonathan on September 26, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    We tell stories because we believe that our interpretation of events is more complete than the last interpretation we heard.

    To hear a story reminds us of the message, or sometimes the other way around, but the story drives home the message in a way a bulleted PowerPoint slide can’t. Two weeks ago my wife asked my middle daughter what the message at church was. She relayed the anectdote at the end which was a snippet from Pilgrim’s Progress. She “got” the message because she heard it wrapped up succinctly in a story. Whether the story was first or second doesn’t matter. As a writer of literary fiction, I believe that sometimes you don’t have to point out the message explicitly either (if your writing’s good enough).

    We tell stories to be understood.

    I write because I can’t not write. I write because I want others to read my writing. I want others to read my writing so they can understand my message. I want them to understand my message so I can continue to write.

  11. Alexis on September 25, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    We write so that we may be heard.

    We write so that we can have a tent within the marketplace of ideas.

    We write because we dream of a better world.

    We publish because we want our stories to take flight.

    We publish because we want the stories of our lives to make a difference in your life.

    We write and we publish and we dream…of a brighter tomorrow, of a happier day, of a beautiful sunset where our inner kid comes out to play.

    Essentially, we write and publish to share our stories, our dreams, our wishes and our heart with the world.

  12. Lee on September 25, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    Quite often, I think about what inspires me to write.

    As a child, I remember reading books that grabbed me so much that I worked on a sequel to a few–in my mind or on paper.

    I love reading a book and being able to clearly imagine the characters who could play in the movie version of the book. I totally saw Angela Bassett playing a role in Waiting To Exhale. And, as I was reading The Help, I said, “This would make a good movie.”

    I love being entertained and I feel so creative when I sit down and write a story and unravel the characters that started in my mind.

    Your blog post is right on point, and it made me think about why I like to write.

    I hope to be published, someday. But, I know that writing is therapeutic for me and that I will always write in some shape or form.

  13. TNeal on September 24, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    Story listening has moved me to laughter and tears, made me think, changed my mind, transformed my imagination, added depth to my soul, connected me with the past, helped me dream of a better future, informed me of other lands and cultures, and introduced me to the God whose ways and thoughts are higher than mine. Now I want to pass on the blessing to others through storytelling.

  14. Patti Mallett on September 24, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    PS – I try to write the story I most want to read.

  15. Patti Mallett on September 24, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    Make a difference. Tell a story that will help others have a better life. That’s mainly why I write fiction. But the desire to be heard and understood is certainly always there.

  16. Karen Jordan on September 24, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    As a writing instructor, I’ve noticed a powerful connection between writing and healing. Many students (and writers) tend to choose topics that deal with the difficult and painful struggles in their lives to try make sense out of their trouble souls.

  17. Wendy Dewar Hughes on September 24, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    We are fascinated by stories and by things we don’t know about. We were created with immense curiosity – some more than others – and need to have it satisfied or life becomes humdrum and dull.

    Those of us with vivid imaginations and a love of words are the storytellers of our generations. What we create is necessary for those whose curiosity must be satiated but who can’t come up with stories on their own. It’s a win-win situation, don’t you think?

  18. Elaine Cougler on September 24, 2011 at 2:51 PM

    I think telling our stories helps us do two things: get more entrenched in them by remembering (memoir) and leave some essential part of ourselves for future generations. In my case my family is such an intrinsic part of who I am that I can’t bear the thought of not being here with them. Writing my story, personal or extended, allows me to leave some part of me for them.
    Oh, that is just too morbid. Writing our stories lets us do something way more meaningful than vacuuming. 🙂

  19. Desiree Woodland on September 24, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    Yes, and in addition to being heard, we tell our stories as a way to validate our existence. We are here and our lives count. Also, there is a hope that others will see their lives in the words we write, and through them find their own voice which expresses what they had been unable to express before.

    As writers, we are attuned to the universality of human existence as we struggle to examine and probe life’s mysteries and inspire others to courage and beauty in the midst of suffering.
    Whether we do that in book form, on a blog, or ebook doesn’t matter as long as the transaction takes place between writer and reader.

    Desiree Woodland
    “Patience is the art of hoping.” Pearl Buck

  20. Chris Metteer on September 24, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    I write for two audiences: myself and an unseen public. I write for myself because creating fiction unleashes a part of my creativity I cannot tap in any other way. I write for an unseen public because I can touch their emotions, their needs, their greatest fears, etc., in ways I could not in any other medium.

    Money? It would be nice. Acceptance? Not necessarily, except on the level that readers like what I am saying. Finding a niche that will work? Sometimes, but I don’t write escapist novels, and I won’t seek out a niche so it will sell. That is tough from the business standpoint but satisfying from a creative one.

    If I feel good in my creative soul after finishing a work, then it is all good. If others find that same level of satisfaction, that’s all the better.

  21. Stephen King on September 24, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    We tell stories for many reasons, some of which you highlighted very well. I think the lure of a Stephen King or Dan Brown sized bank account also pulls a lot of us in as we disregard all warnings that it very likely won’t happen for us. For me, writing a novel represented the same level of achievement that running a marathon did several years ago. I’ve created art in many different media, but the novel takes a level of commitment many times larger than any of the other forms of expression.

    Then, unlike the marathon running, once I’d written one I couldn’t stop. It’s intoxicating once you realize that the story leads you rather than the other way around.

  22. Kurt Corriher on September 24, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    I believe that story-telling is an essential means of maintaining cultural cohesion. It holds us together. It tells us that we’re not alone in our joys and fears and happiness and sorrow. It transmits moral values. It makes the difference between civilization and barbarism.

  23. Erica on September 24, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    Wonderful post, Rachelle!

    Storytelling is such a gift we give unto ourselves to teach parables, to entertain, or as someone stated earlier..”to be validated”. All of those reasons are why I write.

  24. Terri Thompson on September 24, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Exactly right. It reminds me of the quote from “Shadow Lands” about C.S. Lewis’s life. “We read to know we are not alone.”

  25. Joe Pote on September 24, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    I love this post so much, that I came back this morning just to read all the new comments.

    This is fascinating! After reading what everyone has written, I’ve decided that telling stories is much more fundamental than I had realized.

    Sharing the human experience with others is a fundamental part of the human experience. Telling stories and listening to stories is an essential part of being a member of the human race.

    Thank you, everyone, for your stories!

  26. Shon on September 24, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    I think there are two core desires that every human being has – to be unconditionally loved, and to have impact (to know that my life matters). I imagine these core desires have something to do with why so many people want to write.

    I stumbled upon your blog this summer Rachelle. I love it! Thanks for providing such a helpful service!

  27. carol brill on September 24, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    so much to think about…and so much already said.First writing, as a young child I had diaries and penpals. Like breathing, walking and talking, writing felt necessary to connect me to ME as well as others, and help me make sense of the world. And stories, I’ve don’t remember a time I didn’t love stories. I look at strangers and imagine their life, make-up their story. Stories are simply how I see the world.

  28. Heidi Britz on September 24, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    Technology is a great thing, but it reinforces the idea of a “lonely planet” to me as it can never take the place of interpersonal relationships. We were created to be social beings!

    I agree that writing feeds our need for community, helps us explain the unexplainable, and allows us to be known by putting our thoughts into words.

    Thanks for the lovely post.

  29. Barbara Scott on September 24, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    Rachelle, I think your post and all of your readers’ responses are facets of the truth of why we all…readers and writers…need stories: a need NOT just a want. We each have different needs to tell our stories. It’s a driving force within each of us, whether nonfiction or fiction. Despite the millions of books on the shelves, each of us is unique. We prosper by reading books, and we need to keep telling our stories.

  30. Susan L. Anderson on September 24, 2011 at 8:41 AM

    Hi Rachelle,
    I love this. A few months ago, I started a blog with some trepidation. Although I am extroverted by nature, and majored in Communication in college, I wasn’t fully sure about the purpose of my entries, besides practicing writing. After reading your thoughts on telling stories and poignant connections on Facebook with old friends, I realized something profound. My essays are like letters. I hope they resonate with people who care. There is nothing like a good narrative to build relationship, I think. Thanks.

  31. Susan L. Anderson on September 24, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    Hi Rachelle,

    I love this. Back a few months ago, in my communicative fashion (majored in it in college), I started a blog with a bit of trepidation. I wanted a way to practice writing and get some feedback. As I read your thoughts about telling stories coupled with being in touch with old friends on Facebook, I realized that my need for the blog is for a greater purpose. My essays are like letters to friends. I hope they resonate and connect with those I love. There is nothing like a good narrative to build relationship, I think. Thanks.

  32. Peter DeHaan on September 24, 2011 at 6:10 AM

    Your words in the final paragraph really resonate with me: “We want to be heard. To be known and understood.”

    Despite a vision, a driving passion, to write for a greater purpose and with an eternal perspective, my root motivation, deep in my soul, may simply be that I want to be heard, known, and understood.

  33. Stephanie on September 24, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    I write because I dream and those dreams cannot stay bottled up inside me because they’re too big for me to hold. They escape in little ways, all the time, all day and every night, most particularly into my writing. I write because I have to, because if I do not I will crush myself beneath the weight of what I see, what I imagine, what I sense. The world is only one and our dreams connect us, make us real and show us how little we are and how big we can be. Writing expands our world and makes it bigger, gives us hope to dream of possibilities beyond ourselves. Writing spans space, time, distance, culture, it builds bridges, experiences and emotions, it warns of consequences, sees into the future and lets our spirits soar on borrowed wings.

    I write because writing is the echo of life in every nook that has ever been, ever is, ever will be and never may be.

  34. Taryn on September 24, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    Having just read a secular novel that was an absolute waste of time, I’m going to split the question into two parts:

    1) Why do nonbelievers tell stories? Because they can spin a great yarn and keep people turning pages, because they can make money and earn a reputation, and because they might care that their story makes a difference.

    2) Why do Believers tell stories? Because they can spin a great yarn and keep people turning pages whilst offering hope and truth, because the money is a great sideline but the story is bigger than the pay, because they know people out there will benefit from the truth found in their pages and ideally makes a difference to their Eternity.

    Stories are necessary, some more so than others. Valuable things can be learned and imparted by the conveying of stories. I prefer those that don’t waste our time 😉 Offering something eternally valuable motivates me because the characters I write about make the learning so much fun. If it sticks in your head, chances are you’re going to take stock of decisions you might make, and that makes the telling worthwhile and worth the permanent capturing.

  35. Diane Bailey on September 24, 2011 at 2:46 AM

    As a Christian I am created in my Father’s image and He is the best story teller. I write because He put that love into me. I write because I love the way ink flows over paper as I make my thoughts visible.

    I publish for the same reason I engage in a conversation. I have an idea I like and want to share it with others; and I want to hear their ideas as well …at least most of the time.

    I don’t know what motivates others, but I’m reading the replies. -Di

  36. Angela Williams Reese on September 24, 2011 at 12:22 AM

    Writing gives our inner being a chance to live in the world. It shares our conversations, challenges, rejections, abandonments, reconciliations, and joys. We write to touch another’s inner being, by God’s grace, so to encourage in the way. We seek publication to gain support in the journey. It co-joins our inner and outer being into a visible reality.

  37. joan Cimyotte on September 24, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    I want to tell my story. I want mom to put my little poem on the refrigerator. I want others to like my story and have a good time. Eons ago at some campsite in a nomadic village the elders told their stories sometimes to undernourished bellies before a big hunt. After the hunt the stories were told of triumph and battles won. I’m hungry to tell my tale. I want my belly full so I can tell you another story.

  38. Kennisha Hill on September 23, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    I think “we” write for the exact reason you mentioned and…

    to be understood
    to be validated
    to be recognized or “set a part”
    to show the world our imaginations
    to aid in healing
    to teach
    to entertain

    and so many more.. words can be water for a thirsty soul and sharper than a two edge sword.

    Great post, Rachelle!

  39. Gwen Stewart on September 23, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    We tell stories because we’re part of the ultimate story…God’s.

    From “In the beginning…” to, “Even so, come Lord Jesus”, the people of God reveal His story. Since we’re made in His image, it’s only natural that we are attracted to stories too.

    Wonderful post, Rachelle.

  40. Sylvia A. Nash on September 23, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    I find myself wanting to say “Amen.” I wonder if anyone but a group of writers would come up with such a list: Connecting, sharing, instructing, warning, comforting, preserving history and culture and a little of ourselves…. List or no, “our” stories span the ages from drawings on cave walls to e-books. (Melodramatic, isn’t it?)

    Seriously, I cannot imagine not being a writer (teller) or a reader (listener). I’m amazed at people who tell me they don’t read or don’t care to read.

    Stephanie’s comment, “I tell you my truth through a story and you tell me yours,” took me back about 15 years. I shared with one of my favorite student workers, who was African American, that I read the Delaney sisters’ “Having Our Say.” All that I felt while reading that book would provide many topics for many other days. For today, what I remember was her dismissive look and comment: “We all have mothers and grandmothers with stories like those.”

    I was so shaken by her remark AND by her not understanding what reading that book had meant to me, that I wrote the following poem (not a poetic work of art, just my feelings), and shared it with her the next day:

    by Sylvia A. Nash
    Share with me your mothers and
    your grandmothers. Let them
    tell me their stories, and let me
    touch your history. Let your history
    touch me. How else can I know you?

    All that to say this:
    Without “story,” how can we know each other?
    Maybe writers are driven to know and be known.
    Maybe writers are and have always been essential to and for humanity.

    Now I really am being melodramatic.

  41. Marji Laine on September 23, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    I’ve seen a lot of answers as to why we write, and I agree with many of them, but not so many as to why we publish.

    I think publishing confirms us, gives a higher purpose to the thing we love.

    If not pursuing some higher purpose with our writing, it’s a hobby – pleasant, but unnecessary. It’s hard to devote such time to something that is just for me. By attempting publication, my family, and hopefully readers, can benefit from what I enjoying doing.

  42. John on September 23, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    Whether you believe in God or god or nothing, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that the oftentimes the universe doesn’t seem to make much sense. I have a tape of Norman Maclean commenting on his stories that the universe is an often brutal place broken up by brief golden moments. Our desire to tell stories is our human attempt to get some of the stars to line up, to connect a few of the billion dots into something that aligns with our experience. The better you are at rendering details, be they about a person, place, or event, the more things make a modicum of sense, if but for a moment.

    People often tell stories because they feel they have a point to make or a lesson of some sort to share. I have wanted to be a writer for years and struggled with it because I ended up feeling unqualified to make statements of truth. Or when I did, they sounded ham-handed. A few years ago I started just describing things (with the most imaginative detail I could muster) that were in my consciousness with no interest in trying to make a point, and my writing got much better. It’s fascinating now to hear from readers who seem to take some point or lesson away from my stories when none was intended. It’s very surprising to me what people will read into a story. They clearly bring a lot of their own experience in to fill in the empty spaces.

  43. Selina J.H. on September 23, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    I gave the question, posed as to why humankind writes, some thought.

    What came to my mind is….God is the very first being to use words. He used them to create our world. We write because we’re made in God our Father’s image, whose only begotten Son Jesus is described in John as “the Word”. In essence we were created/born into a family who has writing in their very dna.

    Is it any wonder what we have that enables us to know our Heavenly Father better, is a book? It should be no wonder then that we like to write and try to communicate the same way, or why some feel writing is more of something they need to do. However, not every child is alike, some like writing more than others.

    • Joe Pote on September 24, 2011 at 9:49 AM

      Very nice perspective, Selina! I like it!

  44. Timothy Fish on September 23, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Telling stories is one of the things that makes man different from monkeys. Without stories, we would be no better than machines or dumb animals. Stories give meaning to information that we communicate. Thus, we have Facebook.

    But why publish stories? That’s a completely different question. This may sound silly, but as I think about it, I think the answer is because we want to. Obviously, as a society, the reason we publish stories is so they will reach a broader audience and be preserved for posterity. As noble as that sounds, I would be surprised if I were to find an author whose primary goal was to reach a broader audience or to leave a legacy. Publishing is to the author what the concert is to the musician. A musician may enjoy the time alone at his instrument, be he doesn’t spend hours mastering a piece unless he intends to perform.

    The author also intends to perform. Every author is writing to someone. Publishing is a way to get what he is writing to that person. If he were a playwright, he wouldn’t be happy until his play was performed for his audience. A chef wants his food to be eaten. Though we may not know who they are, we have a love affair with our audience. We want to give them the work of our hands, wrapped in paper and tied with a bow. Publishing is the only way we can do that.

  45. Deanna on September 23, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Sometimes I write for beauty, truth, love, connection, understanding or influence.

    I ALWAYS write because I can’t help it; and I believe I have something to say and someone needs me to say it.

  46. Sarah Thomas on September 23, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    I think our experiences don’t seem as REAL until we express them in some way. The beauty of a sunset can touch your soul, but it becomes more profound when someone is standing next to you sighing along. When you’re struggling it can be so comforting to talk to another person who understands and has experienced something similar. Think how excited you get when someone tells you they’re from a small town in North Dakota and you’re mother grew up there. Shared experience becomes more concrete. I want people to read my writing so they can say, “yes, I know what you mean.”

  47. Kristin Laughtin on September 23, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    I think the fact that we want to be known and heard is why so many of us say we will be happy if even one person likes our book. Writing may seem like a solitary occupation, but it is an effort to reach out and connect. If it wasn’t, we would just keep the words in our head.

    My last blog post was actually about why I write, inspired by your Athol Dickson post a few days ago. A bit of a shameless plug, I know, but the timing lined up and my response was a bit long to just copy and paste over here.

  48. Joe Pote on September 23, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    I read once that we read to know we’re not alone (was that Thoreau?). I think there’s a lot of truth to that. We want to know that someone else has shared similar experiences to what we are experiencing…that someone else understands.

    I think we write for the same reason.

    Also, there is the sense that if by sharing my difficult hard-learned experiences, I can save someone else a little heartache or ease their burden, then my struggles were not in vain. It helps lend purpose to my past experiences.

    • Joe Pote on September 23, 2011 at 4:54 PM

      Not Thoreau, CS Lewis. I knew that didn’t sound quite right.

      Elaine had it right (above). I just didn’t read her comment before leaving mine.

  49. Marc Vun Kannon on September 23, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    I think it goes even deeper than that. We tell stories to ourselves to explain the things that happen to us. The meanings of the words we use are stories. Facts are stories. Everything is a story. Some things about the world are told better as ‘stories’ than as ‘facts’. Facts have to conform to experience, fictions do not. I tell stories because I use the story to explain things to me, as my own first reader.

  50. Tirzah on September 23, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    My mother alwasy said I told stories because the truth was never interesting enough for me…but I think my storytelling has matured since I was seven. 🙂

  51. KathrineRoid on September 23, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    We write because we want to affect something, change something, leave our mark. Everyone wants to do something meaningful to the world. For writers, we get a little itch that says this is the way to do it.

    It’s not that we want to be heard. That’s not enough. We want those who hear to act and think, to be different. How do you feel when a reader tells you you’ve changed and helped them?

  52. Sally Bradley on September 23, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    I can’t speak for everyone because we all have different reasons. But for me, it’s just how I’m wired. I always have stories going through my head. It’s how God made me, and I’m at my best in every area of my life when I’m doing what He’s made me to do.

  53. Beth MacKinney on September 23, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    I believe stories give people an avenue to immortality. (Not meant in a weird way.)

    The saying goes, “You can’t take it with you.” But the question is, will you leave anything behind you? When you write a story, you leave a tangible part of yourself behind for others to know. I think people have a need for that; thus we have books, art, movies, etc. These things don’t just entertain. They archive something from a person’s being.

  54. Lisa on September 23, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    Sad but incredibly true. I love all the comments. We are all philosophers as well I guess, analyzing reasons for our words and actions. As Rachelle so eloquently put it, as people spend less time in face to face communication, we have lost sight of what is real and important. The human touch, watching for facial and emotional responses, the tone of one’s voice to indicate pain or sorrow. We have lost touch and our now in front of a screen. I love what Ray said about trying to hold on to that “campfire story telling” feeling. I miss that. It’s terrifying to me. That is what our children are growing into, that frame of mind. So maybe we writers, what’s left of us, are lone messengers and keepers of the ancient and dying art of great storytelling.

  55. Why Stories? – A Noble Theme on September 23, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    […] Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has an intriguing take on the power of and need for stories in human society, including the manner in which the form and media of those stories have changed over time. As our society has become more fragmented and media-oriented, as extended families have ceased to be an important social construct, as individuals spend less time in face-to-face communication and more time in mediated communication, our need to both tell stories and hear stories hasn’t changed, but the way we fulfill that need has changed. […]

  56. otin on September 23, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    The human mind is the most powerful special effects studio in the world. It can conjure up images Industrial light And Magic could never bring to a movie screen. I think that humans have a need within themselves to push their imaginations to the brink.

    Everyone has different reasons for creating stories. Some people like to be scared, while others want to explore the deepest realms of the galaxy. I think that everyone has the need to create their fantasy worlds, but I don’t believe that everyone has the power to describe what they see. Authors and storytellers are the fortunate ones who are able to put their visions into words.

    Each person who hears a story or reads a book will see it different than anyone else. If I write a story that someone reads (Like that will ever happen! LOL),their mind takes it over. It becomes a springboard for their imagination.

    To answer your question, I think that we seek publication because it is within our nature to want to share our ideas. We all want to be heard.

  57. Vicki Hopkins on September 23, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    “We don’t just want to write and publish books. We want to be heard. To be known and understood. And we want to know and understand others.”

    Right on! Our books contain the essence of who we are as individuals. It’s my DNA woven between words. It’s the need to be seen, heard, and understood on many levels. Thanks for the great post.

  58. T Denise Clary on September 23, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Very nicely put!!! I would love to repost on my blog if that’s OK?

    T Denise Clary 🙂

  59. […] for Facebook Profiles Changes Everything4 Spy Gear Goods To Support Catch Your Spouse CheatingWhy Do We Tell Stories?Florida Gun LawThe Nature of Your RealityWhy Do We Tell Stories? var […]

  60. Loree Huebner on September 23, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    It’s also a way to pass down family history.

    As the baby of the family, I remember hearing the stories of my sibs, parents, grandparents and so on. I remember listening about the wars they were in, deaths, accidents, and life. I remember more than they do because I took it in and really listened as a child. I heard the stories over and over. Even though I wasn’t part of the happenings, they now come to me to remember parts of the stories that they forgot.

    Now I’m the storyteller.

  61. elaine @ peace for the journey on September 23, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    C.S. Lewis says, “We read to know that we’re not alone.”

    I think we write for the same reasons.


  62. April on September 23, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    You know, it’s funny. I don’t think of it in terms of stories I need to tell. I don’t know…it’s just inside me. I never gave it much thought.

    I can understand someone writing a memoir and feeling the need to tell his/her story, teach the lessons he/she learned, etc.

    I can also understand someone writing true crime or an autobiography, feeling that those stories of those people need to be heard by a wider audience. That the truth needs to be revealed.

    But for me…it’s just a need to write. To use words to form sentences that create images. To create beauty from these words.

    I can’t describe it any better than that.

  63. Mary Jo on September 23, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    I think people need storytelling because it gives meaning to our lives. Those stories over the campfire weren’t straightforward accounts of what happened–they edited the boring parts, exaggerated the interesting stuff, highlighted the scary bits, turned ordinary people in heroes etc. Not much different than what we do as writers. Without these stories our lives might seem pretty humdrum.

  64. Susan Bourgeois on September 23, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    As Robert McKee said in the movie “Adaptation”, “The Story Is In You.”

    I believe this to be true. Writers have a strong desire from within to share what they’re feeling.

    Writing is like a calling for many. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t share the passion but it’s there and it’s strong.

    The passion may lie dormant at times but it can re-surface in a fury if a spark is ignited.

    Writers have a strong desire to share their stories for all of the reasons you mentioned in your post.

    To put it simply, “Writers write because they have a strong desire to express their stories.”

  65. Cyndi on September 23, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    “We don’t just want to write and publish books. We want to be heard. To be known and understood. And we want to know and understand others.”

    That’s it for me, in a nutshell. So glad others understand!

  66. Danielle on September 23, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    I write because it’s my way of giving my gift to others, but mostly because I want to leave a meaningful and tangible piece of my soul on earth after I’ve gone.

  67. RayS on September 23, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    Generally, I agree with your premise. Storytelling not only passes on culture, it also reinforces interpersonal ties. That was vital when 99% of survival depended on group action. As technology developed and lifestyles changed, that purpose may have become less vital simply because individual activity became more important than group activity. In current culture, we need others less for survival but are beginning to discover we need each other more, not to survive but to remain human. We’re still groping for a way to provide the connections that stories around the campfire used to provide. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but Facebook and Twitter don’t really do it for me – I would rather chat in the pub or by the fireplace or campfire.

    As far as writing is concerned, readers seem to be very important to some people and I have noticed a close connection between ego and the need to be read/appreciated.

    Other people (like me) will write whether or not anyone ever reads their work. I am happy if someone enjoys my poetry and novels, but that’s not why I write. I suspect I write to organize and clarify my understanding of the world.

  68. Joseph Baran on September 23, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    Growing up in poverty with no toys or much anything else, story telling was a favorite childhood past time of mine. It was a very crucial part of my childhood overall as it was my entertainment, besides drawing, and safe haven keeping me out of trouble and off the streets.

    Later in life I had a naive notion that it was possible to change the world with the tip of my pen. Now being much older and having been on life’s roller coaster for decades, I write not only to be heard still, but to make an impression on the reader. To touch their life, their soul, even if only for a brief passing moment. To make the reader reflect on the life and perhaps on themselves.

    Writing about love, life and death will probably never make me famous or rich as a writer. But that’s not what this is really all about.

  69. Stephanie Knipper on September 23, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    I think we write for several reasons, one of them being to connect with each other. I tell you my truth through a story and you tell me yours. We share about our lives this way. I think that’s what drives our need to be published because until someone else reads our work, we’re simply talking to ourselves.

    Also, I think we learn more through stories than we do if someone simply tells us something. Jesus knew this. He did most of His teaching through stories/parables.

    Stories are how we learn about our world, share our truths with each other, and form lasting connections with other people.

    • TC Avey on September 23, 2011 at 4:56 PM

      I agree, stories form bonds between individuals that otherwise may never exist. They help us feel connected to others, they encourage us as we learn from others and they help us to feel important.

      Stories are part of us and as much as we like to tell them, we like to hear them…they are a form of communication.

      Jesus is the best example of this, his parables and the stories about his life have lived on long after he walked the earth.

  70. Ginny Martyn on September 23, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    I thought this was profound. Thanks.

  71. Leigh Caron on September 23, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    I like to make people laugh with outlandish scenarios, or scare the bejeebers out of someone so they’re afraid of the dark. So I write.

    • Alan Kurland on September 23, 2011 at 2:42 PM

      I’ve been writing since my high school days, from school paper, to professional journals, to Army Stars and Stripes, etc. I got my earliest request for more from a publisher when I was 20, for a non-fiction proposal on “Building Sets for Amateur Theatre.”

      I write to communicate, to share knowledge and dreams with the world, but, you know, it wouldnt be bad to make some money out of it as well!

      Thanks Rachelle for your marvelous help.