The other day I finally got around to watching Hannah Gadsby’s most excellent one hour Netflix special Nanette. I’d already watched her following show, Douglas, (which if you haven’t watched it by the way, is a masterclass in technical comedy), but I’d never had the space to sit down and engage with her first special. If anything, I think it was because Nanette does not hold back, and has a lot of “tension” (as Hannah calls it) which makes you really sit and consider, quite purposefully uncomfortably, the impact of the inability for individuals to tell their stories.
The most impactful part of the show for me was her final monologue, where she drops the setup/punchline structure and tells us the end to some of the stories that had been created into jokes. As you sit and listen to her tell her story, you reflect on your own story, your life, and the society around you.
The show really left me with a quiet moment of reflection whilst the credits were rolling across the screen. An uncomfortable tension, a reflection of the power of stories and the impact it can have when stories are not told.
There is a part of writing, for me, that goes beyond mere enjoyment. That purpose of a story, to tell not only your story, but to teach others a lesson about their own. To give them a moment to sit in quiet reflection when they finish your book, and ponder their own life. To have someone read a story, no matter how dressed up it is in magical allegory and fantasy elements, is a chance for that story to be recognised, to be understood, and to give that reader quiet reflection at the end of it.
When creating my own writing, especially my ongoing novel, whenever I hit a writer’s block I come back to that question – what is it I want to make the reader reflect upon? Maybe it is their own fortune that they would not have otherwise recognised. Maybe it is a place of validation – a place where someone can come to that story and recognise themselves in it. In some ways, I think that’s why the fantasy (especially high fantasy) genre has such an emotional impact – after all it is an entire genre created around big character arcs and tropes which sing to larger-than-life ideas.
That place of validation is key to readers. It’s the core heart of a story, it’s the reason why stories were invented in the first place. A way to communicate not just thoughts and feelings, but hopes and dreams for other worlds, other places that we can only cook up in the inside of our minds. A place that takes us away from this reality, but also teaches us a little bit about it at the same time. After all, any element of worldbuilding is going to be, at some level, based upon the world we know and care about.
This is why, in my opinion, stories are not just important, they are vital. Sure, those words might not make as much money as other careers, or solve scientific problems. But they bring that reader, someone you may never know, to a place of your creation, sit them down and share part of your truth with the world. And no matter how many types of the same story exist, your truth at it’s core is the thing that makes your story a unique one.
So if, like me, you face the uncomfortable position of writers block, remember that this story you’re creating is something important.
Featured image by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash
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