Why do we love stories so much? What it is about fiction that compels us to pay attention.
We’re not talking about genre fiction here, as in “I really like detective stories more than romance stories.” This is about the power of the narrative — any narrative: The characters and their interactions, the decisions and actions they take, the consequences of those actions.
Think about those dinner table discussions, telling the same family stories that we have heard again and again.
What fascinates us about the narrative?
That question has drawn the attention of evolutionary social theorists who recognize that every society and culture has its stories and across societies and cultures, many of these stories have the same elements. David Robson has an interesting essay about all that on the BBC website. BBC – Culture – Our fiction addiction: Why humans need stories
Robson cites the earliest piece of literature that we know about — the 4,000-year-old story of Gilgamesh from the ancient Sumerian society — as containing the same things that many of our modern stories have:
What is even more astonishing is the fact that it is read and enjoyed today, and that so many of its basic elements – including its heart-warming ‘bromance’ – can be found in so many of the popular stories that have come since.
Such common features are now a primary interest of scholars specialising in ‘literary Darwinism’, who are asking what exactly makes a good story, and the evolutionary reasons that certain narratives – from Homer’s Odyssey to Harry Potter – have such popular appeal.
This is an excellent article with much to consider. (It will probably take less than 10 minutes to read.
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