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Honk If You Love Stories

When I was trying to break in as a new writer, sometimes I would drag myself to my desk,  asking the wrong question —Does the world really need another story?  

Early in my career, I posed a similar question to a rowdy group of high school freshman who were not listening to much of what I had to say.  Everyone knows you're not supposed to ask a surly crowd a question, especially a surly crowd of teenagers.  But I did.

"Why are stories important?" I shouted.  A boy in the back yelled, "They're not!"  I was ready to crawl out the door and find another profession, but when you love something, you defend it.  I hollered back, "Why not?"

A girl raised her hand: "Because stories teach us about life."  I almost gave her money for that answer.  It was the first time I ever led a group of students in an exercise developing a character from thin air. Who was this person?  What kind of a family was he from?  What kind of a heart did he have?  What were his dreams, his fears?  What kept him going…and on and on…

By the end of the assembly, we'd formed a living, breathing fictional character (that is not a contradiction in terms), and a boy in the back shouted, "You're okay, lady."  I wrote that down and slept with it under my pillow.

Does the world need another story?  I don't ask that question anymore, no matter how tired I feel. I know the answer—not just for my work, but for the millions of writers (published and yet-to-be published) out there.  Absolutely, positively, and undeniably YES!