Stories Connect Us

Hello! I know I have been rather absent of late, and unfortunately, I can’t say that I’ve been doing much reading or writing in that time! I have been enjoying summer and binge watching a USA Network series called Suits. (I haven’t caught up yet, so no spoiliers please!).

I recently watched an episode of Suits got me thinking about the importance of how stories connect us.

In this episode, main character Harvey has to explain to newcomer Alex why fellow attorney Louis behaves a certain way. Harvey is trying to explain, and getting nowhere. So he asks Alex a simple question. “Ever seen M.A.S.H.?” Now Harvey has a frame of reference to add, “Louis is Frank Burns.” Alex’s response? “Now I get it.”

Why? Why does a reference to a fictional character suddenly make everything clearer? (Ok, yes I know, Harvey and Alex are fictional too, but bear with me here.)

Because everyone knows a Frank Burns. Maybe we have a hard time describing him. Is he just inept? Power hungry? Terribly insecure and trying to make up for it? Frank is all of these things, and actor Larry Linville, who portrayed Frank in the TV series, shared an interesting fact: whenever he’d ask veterans which M.A.S.H character was the most realistic, it was Frank Burns, because everyone had “that person” in their outfit.

TV, Books, Movies, Theatre: they all have one thing in common. They tell the story of Us. We see our lives reflected in the story. Maybe we aren’t surgeons fighting a war in Korea, but we find ourselves recognizing the same struggles.

And, maybe, that helps us overcome our daily struggles. Just as Alex was able to understand Louis better once he recognized the Frank Burns connection, and realize that the behavior had everything to do with Louis and not Alex; we, too, learn new ways of dealing with “that person.”

This universality of human nature is what makes stories resonate with us. If I told you I had a friend who behaved just like Hermione, what do you picture? What if I said my coworker reminded me of Clark Kent? Hermione, Clark Kent, and Frank Burns can only mean something to us because they are real. The names may be different, but we meet them each and every day.

This insight is what makes storytelling so important and so relevant. Anyway that you consume stories – they are windows to the larger world around you and a magnifying glass into daily life.

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3 thoughts on “Stories Connect Us

  1. Very insightful and true. In his book “The Storytelling Animal” Jonathan Gottschall says the same thing, but he says that in by-gone time the storytelling was done by humans talking to other humans, today we have many forms of media to tell us stories, including books, videos and songs. Think about that song at Christmas about the little boy buying his mother shoes so she can meet Jesus. The message is –
    we humans need to be connected to each other and storytelling helps us do that.

    Like

  2. Great post! I never really thought about it before but I tend to be drawn to characters I can relate to or characters I wish I could be like! I want to read a story about me going on an adventure 😀 and I could totally see using characters to help understand other people! That is awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is why story telling will be around until our final days of existence. We form a bond with certain characters. It’s an unbreakable bond and a personal one at that.

    Well done. This is the kind of topic we need to hear more of.

    Liked by 1 person

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