A crazy, cool thing happened to me during my recent book signing at Barnes & Noble in Lubbock, Texas. I was autographing a copy of Pennies from Burger Heaven for a woman — a complete stranger who thought my story sounded compelling enough to slap down cash for it. (which was wonderful).
Her young son stood by her side, while they waited. His black hair stuck out every which way, and he had mischievous eyes. He looked about four or five — like the kind of kid that if everyone is walking left, he’d be running right. I liked him immediately. He was playing with some of the pennies I’d scattered across my table for decoration (clever, I know).
While I wrote, he asked me, “Why do you write books?”
I didn’t look up. “Because I have to. Stories form in my head and they don’t go away until I write them down.”
“I don’t know how to write yet, but I love stories like that.”
“Oh yeah. Why do you think we love stories so much?” His answer pierced my heart …
He said, “Because stories change me.”
That took my breath away. I stopped and looked at him. He seemed to stare straight through me. I asked, “What do you mean?”
He shrugged, like no biggie. “Whatever the story is, it starts happening to me. I am the story.”
I am the story.
I almost couldn’t speak. “What’s your favorite book?”
By now, he tossed several pennies in his hands. “Oh, I don’t have a favorite. I love them all. I can’t wait to learn how to read and write, so I can write down my stories someday, like you.”
“I bet you’d be great at it.”
“I’m good at pretty much everything.”
His mom busted out laughing. I got the feeling that might have been a slight exaggeration on his part, but I liked the hell out his confidence. I handed his mom her signed copy of my novel, and thanked the boy for rocking my world.
We’re Hardwired for Stories
As humans, we’ve been storytellers since cavemen huddled around the fire, grunting out tall tales to each other, or carving them on rock walls. For me, I love it all — fiction, nonfiction, books, and movies. I’ve even been known to get weepy during Superbowl commercials (especially, ones with Clydesdale horses, puppies, or sappy father-daughter car commercials).
Science has proven stories affect our brains, releasing chemicals that make us more empathetic towards one another. Compelling narratives change our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
That little boy was right, “Whatever the story is, it starts happening to me. I am the story.”
What about You?
Life moves faster than ever these days. You have to make a concerted effort to either sit down with a book, Kindle, or plop on the couch to watch a movie. You could do countless other activities, but readers keep coming back stories.
Because stories change us. A four-year old said so.
Tell me, why do you love stories?
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