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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The value of stories

(clip art courtesy of

I've been reading Walt Disney's biography and I found a great quote:

"To captivate our varied and worldwide audience of all ages, the nature and treatment of the fairy tale, the legend, the myth have to be elementary, simple. Good and evil, the antagonists of all great drama in some guise, must be believably personalized. The moral ideals common to all humanity must be upheld. The victories must not be too easy. Strife to test valor is still and will always be the basic ingredient of the animated tale, as of all screen entertainments." —Walt Disney

I actually got into a discussion with my friends about the importance of stories a while ago. We had just finished watching a movie, and the argument was pretty intense, but I found great value in the topic. When I watch a movie, read a book, or even play a game, the first thing I focus on is the story. The main character must have a element of humanity and take that element to grow within whatever conflict he or she faces. Stories have always been internal, social and personal lessons to me. With stories, we can learn what we want to become and how to face our fears. I imagine that's why fairy tales last so long. Each story and character symbolizes a certain element of humanity. It's that element that makes a story grow, and I think the element must come from some experience in the storyteller's life. The motivation to focus on certain topics is an infinite fascination to people. The basic stories involve love, family, trust, courage and self confidence. As I have learned from many writing and reading classes, these are human elements that tie an audience to a story. Conflict is also necessary to keep the story interesting, but it is usually the core lesson of the tale. Whatever conflict the main character must face, their resourcefulness, intelligence and their motivation will help the character conquer whatever fear they have. I could list many examples, not only of Disney movies, but of literature, TV shows, video games and books that use these human elements to tie the audience down.
The more I learned of these human elements, the more I realized that personal experience is a crucial ingredient to a writer's story. Even if an author is asked to write a character that is their opposite, that author will write what they believe to be their opposite by using their personal experience and their opinion. So what am I rambling on about? Well, you can't tell a story if you don't know what matters to you. By knowing yourself, you can understand everyone else. I feel this is the most important lesson for an author. I know that I have a lot to learn before I write more stories. If the topic is not clear to the writer, chances are the topic won't be clear to the reader. So stories are personal experiences of people that are represented through the lens of a fantasy world. That's why good stories last so long. Something about the story reflects an element of humanity, and shows the truth of the human heart.

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