Stories we tell: Which ones make you want to act?

One evening I discovered that while I have been saying the same thing in different ways, especially those stories about love that I am collecting, Jhumpa Lahiri is able to say it better and induce action (read: tears). It gets worse (for me), even though she’s a mother, her quote about the fundamental issue with having kids somehow strikes a better chord compared to someone like me, who may genuinely feel so (I don’t but that’s besides the point).

Stories we tell
Authenticity in storytelling

This really strikes me. Great storytellers spin gold out of straw. In which ever stories we tell, it doesn’t matter whether the facts are real or not. These storytellers create a sense of belief and wonder. Like actors, and like Shah Rukh Khan mentioned in a Tweet recently, if it were all fact, it would be ‘facting’. The quote is quite meh but the idea is not.

Not everyone is as gifted as the people I mentioned. And yet, everyone needs a story or two to entertain, convince and express. Even as an adult, my made-up stories still invoke a sense of wonder in me when I’m wanting to relax. I believe the stories for children, half of them involving imaginary friends, mud or far-far away make us creative as adults. I’d also go as far as saying that, childhood stories make us nostalgic and comprise a huge portion of things we can ‘relate to’ and thus emotionally connect with. Having said that, they can also set up life-long biases that we need to be conscious of (I prefer Shrek’s rendition of fairy tales as opposed to Brothers Grimm for Baby Ri, but I wonder if I rather raise him to see the difference by himself). And even then, I do not ever want to run a reference check on how true grandmother’s stories are. I like believing in them.

shah rukh khan twitter on acting
Borrowed from @iamsrk’s tweet timeline

The existential question is about being authentic and about reality in itself. What is more real in the stories we tell, the authentic emotions they invoke, or the facts we base them on?

I am convinced that stories we connect with and spend time on are those that reach us in intimate ways. I also see it as an art more than a scientific process (though that’s a component). And yet, I see people react better to stories that are presented in polarizing ways, many times out of context. Things we like to believe in, whether or not they represent the real balanced picture. They make us wonder, react and generate sentiments on either end. For instance, I love David. He blurs reality, steals cars and often times just says what I want to hear. I do not question his authenticity. I just like where he takes me.

It’s fashionable (and realistic) to hear everyone talking about creating authentic stories and conversations. I feel, they do not happen in automatic, machine generated ways. They may not even be real. I think, they begin from listening and identifying the purpose and understanding what truly is authentic. After all, if the stories we tell we do not generate wonder, what good is the fact churning anyway!

  1. Your article made me think. But that also leads me to disagree in part 🙂

    Have you ever considered that stories that are read from a book might have in general a larger impact than having it told to you from someone you know? No author has to believe in what they write but I think the great ones actually do. Authentic stories are overrated. You are much better off wincing in pain or smiling internally, even if the story makes no sense.

    However I do agree that a story can only strike a chord with the reader or listener when he/she is already made himself a character, whether he knows it or not.

    1. 🙂 I had to tweet that profound bit on authentic stories being overrated. I think, it will also always make sense if it strokes our emotions.

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