Writing fiction is very similar to the “social science” of sociology. Not that sociology generates falsehoods or “fiction” (although sometimes it does), but because sociology is a license to investigate any aspect of human behavior. The same is true of fiction writing. Moreover, an author of fiction has the luxury to create anything he or she can dream up – other worlds, other universes, other dimensions.
Storytelling is as old as human speech and permeates all facets of every culture, including religion, art, education and social structure. Civic and religious “parables” are common educational tools, contributing to the cultural conditioning of all citizens. In this sense, storytelling is used as a symbolic illustration of a particular ideal or “truth.” On the other hand, storytelling can also be used to commit crimes; for example, the story of a con man or a fraud.
We arrange our personal reality according to on-going stories – our work, our school, our families, our lovers, our wives, our husbands, our kids. The first question in the morning is usually “How did you sleep?” Toward the end of the day we ask, “How was your day?” When we haven’t seen someone for a while, we ask “what were you up to?”
These questions require stories. Sometimes we are the protagonists, other times we merely witness an event and recount it – giving it embellishments with gestures, expressions, vocabulary and voice imitations. Part of the story will be fiction, because we report from only one perspective. Other witnesses will have different stories. But all the stories together add up to “reality.”
In the new electronic era, storytelling has been lifted to a new level as one of the main forms of communication. The internet provides a world-wide audience – from “ebooks” to home-made videos. In fact, nearly every social networking site is an outlet for stories, and everyone has a story. Everything we post on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube reveals a tiny piece of who we are, a tiny piece of our story, and part of our story is true and part is fiction.