View Full Version : Is storytelling human nature?

11-14-2008, 01:47 AM
I'm curious. How many non-writers create stories? Does everyone sit around like we do and design characters and plots, but never gets around or cares to write them down?

It's not uncommon to hear, "Oh, I would write a novel if I had the time"--but why, exactly, is it so common? People talk about a "writerly mind," but does everyone a piece of it?

We have novelists, short story writers, screenwriters, directors, actors and countless other creative professionals somehow tied into the storytelling.

Is this human nature? Are storytellers the norm?

Ageless Stranger
11-14-2008, 01:52 AM
I do believe it is. We all create stories, it's just that writers go a step further and commit them to paper. I think it comes down to that fact that we all have an imagination and no matter how much it is drowned out by television and the mundane tasks of life, it's there. It burns in all of us.

Perhaps I'll make a more comprehensive post later.

11-14-2008, 01:53 AM
I think it's human nature to want to communicate, and telling stories is part of it. I think everyone likes to tell stories, to some extent -- whether it's a story about growing up, or how their kids did in school the other day, etc. etc. People have the urge and instinct to tell stories -- it's to communicate and relate to each other on a human level. Some tell it the way it is, and some like to embellish. I personally think a good storyteller is one who likes embellish, and add flavors, and complexity, etc. Stories, in general, are all about human relationships and the human condition.

It's different levels of storytelling and complexity that makes someone just a mom telling stories to her kids, or a novelist.

11-14-2008, 01:54 AM
I think storytelling is human nature, just not necessarily fiction storytelling.

People sit around coffee shops, barber shops, bus stops, and bars everyday, talking about their day. "And then I told them to..." or "It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen. It was comin' right at me...."

But, I think, the "writerly mind" sees and hears those events differently. We see things and think, "That would be a good place to find a body." Or, "What if...." and the story spins out from there. Add to that, we have a special affection for the well turned phrase or the artfully rendered image. We have a love for the details and the how to of it, sometimes even more than the effect it had.

just MHO....

11-14-2008, 01:56 AM
I think it's human nature to tell stories, but not necessarily to write them down. That's where the hard work comes in.

Hard work, but it's fun too. Don't tell though, or they'll all be at it.

"A" Is For "Agent"
11-14-2008, 01:57 AM
It's totally human nature.

11-14-2008, 02:09 AM
So what about the fiction element?

I mean, I just sat staring off into space for about 30 minutes, working out a plot. I enjoy doing this. When I realize a character, I don't "build" them, they're already conceived like flesh and blood people. I understand a lot of writers differ on the mechanics, but how much of it do non-writers understand?

If storytelling is a natural human element, and I tell a non-writer how I just spent my 30 minutes, are they most likely to say, "Hey, that's cool, I've done that" or "Get a life"?

I don't share or discuss writing with people in real life. Really, it's just AW. So maybe you guys here already know the answers to these questions, or maybe it's an insane we'll-never-know debate about human consciousness.

"A" Is For "Agent"
11-14-2008, 02:10 AM
I think characters are usually people we know; composites at best.

Soccer Mom
11-14-2008, 02:22 AM
I think that there are people who do this (make up worlds and populate them with people) for their own entertainment. There are people out there who honestly don't do this. There is a certain mindset that makes someone a storyteller. A writer is someone who does this for others' entertainment as well as their own.

11-14-2008, 02:25 AM
So what about the fiction element?

It's human nature to imagine, fantasize, embellish, and lie.

Fiction writers simply take that to a higher level -- using lies to tell truths.

11-14-2008, 04:02 AM
tl;dr: TOTALLY

Definitely, but not everyone is a raconture (sp?) and not everyone is interested in actually putting the story down.

You look at all the wonderful stories our ancestors left for us and tell me in any way that humans aren't meant to tell stories at least some of the time. Even if we don't do it often or write them down, we tell stories when we lie or talk about something funny that happened to us.

People give writers weird looks and stuff all the time because being a writer is a weird thing to be. At least it is these days. I bet you go back a couple hundred years or so and it's not that weird. We just have so much other stuff to entertain ourselves with that a lot of people don't see the point in it anymore. And so hundreds upon thousands of years of work go down the drain because of TV, the internet, and video games.

Part of it is I think some people grow out of it. When we're young we always "try on" different personas. It's an actual psychological thing I learned in class. Once we grow out of it, we stop making things up, but some of us don't and start putting it on paper.

Or even drawing. Some people tell their stories through art. I have a link to a great artist who can tell amazing stories with just one painting. I can give the link if any one wants it.

Claudia Gray
11-14-2008, 08:09 PM
I think the need to hear stories and to create narratives is definitely innate. I think the need/ability to do so through fiction is sort of on a sliding scale -- there are people for whom that means very little, and people for whom it's vital.

11-14-2008, 09:02 PM
I think storytelling is human nature. (I haven't read the other replies indepth, BTW, so apologies if I repeat someone else.)

Even those of us who never put pen to paper (or sit around a campfire) will do things like tell a funny story about something that happened at work, or relate the exploits of some famous ancestor to our kids, or recall something we saw on the news, or gossip about some celebrity or other, or make up an outlandish lie to try to get out of something.

We're inextricably tied in with history, past events as well as potential ones, so of course storytelling, in whatever form, is human nature, simply because of history and our need to relate it (whatever the medium).

11-15-2008, 01:35 AM
Yeah, storytelling does seem to go along with human nature.

I mean, take daydreaming. Almost everybody daydreams at some point or another, and a lot of the time, daydreaming is just creating some sort of story in your mind, a scenario that you wish would actually happen in your life.

11-15-2008, 03:46 PM
Our lives are a story we're telling to ourselves.

"A" Is For "Agent"
11-15-2008, 03:53 PM
I think it's human nature to tell stories, but not necessarily to write them down. That's where the hard work comes in.

Hard work, but it's fun too. Don't tell though, or they'll all be at it.

I agree. (I must have passed right over this!)

11-15-2008, 04:02 PM
Before there was the written word, the only way people could regenerate their culture and pass it down to their ancestors was by storytelling. Yes, I think it's human nature.

But in this age of internet and video and television, we've lost the myths and fairy tales that were once the common bond we shared. The impact of storytelling has diminished in the face of mass communication. It is a loss to our culture and humanness that technology has overtaken us. There is no more mystery or magic in the spoken word.

11-15-2008, 04:57 PM
Storytelling is a very stimulating creative expression within human nature. You don't need to be a writer to tell a story, as imagination is vivid in everyone. :)

11-15-2008, 05:30 PM
I think it's a lot like music - both are activities that go way back to primative times, but some are more inclined/skilled/willing and/or able to make it happen.

Example: I love music, took lessons for years as a kid, and even at my best was never able to play a tune worthy of being heard by the public. A friend of mine, a voracious reader and lover of stories, can't write a story. I said something to her just this week that in my opinion, anybody can scribble out a short story, most people just don't want to, at which point she looked at me wide eyed and said that she knew she couldn't, she tried several times before and it was just something she couldn't do.

11-15-2008, 06:49 PM
I think that creating a linear narrative and finding causes are human nature. Storytelling is an art based on this, often learned as some kind of apprentice (often by listening to some old uncle tell fish stories or something mundane like that). Some people tell better stories than others. It is similar to singing in that all people can do it, but many people cannot "carry at tune" while others are superior singers. In painting, anyone can smear paint to describe their feelings but still not make the painting look like anything. That is an art that is learned.

Mr. Chuckletrousers
11-15-2008, 07:50 PM
The construction of narratives is a key component of human cognition. We analyze and understand the universe around us by teasing chains of consequence and sets of relevantly interrelated phenomena (i.e. stories) out of the vast sea of happenstance. Self-awareness itself is a kind of story that we tell ourselves -- we are each the main character in, and the author of, the story of our lives. Fiction, I suspect, is merely a spandrel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spandrel_(biology)); a happy side-effect of our propensity to carve up the cake of reality into story-shaped slices.

Word Jedi
11-16-2008, 10:46 PM
Is this human nature? Are storytellers the norm?

I'm sure of it. It's why we share funny jokes. It gives us a great feeling when we see people laugh.

11-17-2008, 05:50 PM
Story telling is human nature. We have an ingrained desire to explain the unexplained, to convey our beliefs and feelings through examples and parables, to pass on the past to future generation so that we may not be forgotten. A writer just has too much to say in the course of five to ten minutes.