The Hidden Agenda(s) of Storytelling

I’m doing my laundry from Boy Scout camp tomorrow & putting it right back in the duffel – I’m accompanying my younger son to a five-day resident Cub Scout camp this Thursday.  Lacking any real direction in my personal and reading life this week other than laundry and repacking, I’ll be reading a few stories on my July list with an eye to the narrators’ motives for telling their stories.

Thanks to two interesting posts at Reading the Short Story and Critical Mass, I’ve expanded my list of reasons to tell a story:

Narrators’ Reasons for Telling a Story:

  • teaching/counsel
  • entertainment
  • persuasion
  • self-justification
  • creating/shaping experience (as May says, “constructing reality”)
  • transformation of self, other, or event
  • explaining/understanding a mystery

Authors’ Reasons for Telling a Story (or at least for writing literary fiction):

  • possibly any of the above, plus:
  • exploring connections between or among things/ideas
  • “throw[ing] light on basic human impulses and conflicts” (May)

I suppose that most authors of literary fiction – at least the successful ones – aren’t in the game in pursuit of filthy lucre.

This week, I’m going to try to avoid guessing what the authors’ motives might have been in writing the stories I’m reading; I’ll try to stay in the realm of imagination and stick to the narrators’ motives.  Maybe something interesting will happen.

To the English majors and professors (and perhaps the psychologists and sociologists) out there:  Did I miss any reasons for telling stories?

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About readersquest

I'm a retired naval officer and writer. I live with my husband, two sons, and several family pets in a house in the woods.
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