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?
Please leave comment. Let’s talk.
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Good morning, what a beautiful story. Story’s do change us, they bring us into worlds we might otherwise miss. I can get me so involved in the story and they keep me focused on life and staying sober. I thank all of you authors for giving me something to look forward too, a little peace and comfort from this crazy thing we call life.
Ahhh, what an powerful thing to share, Tonya. Yep, one day at a time is great motto for everyone. Good luck on finding more great stories, staying sober and being of service to others. xo – m3
Ah, such wisdom from a little guy. I see him as a future author on the NY Best Seller list. Thanks for sharing that story. Love your blog and I look forward to it. I love stories because some of them challenge my preconceived ideas about people, culture, love, faith and life.
Ooooh, I love that Suzanna. Stories do challenge our preconceived ideas. Beautifully, said. Thanks for the comment.
I’ve battled the Ant Men with Tarzan, Herded cattle from Lonesome Dove to Montana, scrabbled for Treasure in the Sierra Madre, Fished with the Old Man, I’ve seen the Pillars of the Earth and Been with Shogun and followed Pasquanel in Centennial. Why do i love stories. Surely you jest,
You were born a storyteller, Louis. Keep reading, keep writing, and keep wowing the world!
Lois (above)—- me too. As a disabled early retiree who wasn’t even supposed to have been conceived as my mother had polio and the docs said no kids( wish I could find him…my sister and I proved THAT diagnosis wrong)….and dyslexic to boot. If it weren’t for a neighbor working the “read me a page and tell me what it says” method, I doubt I would have even fallen in love with/became the stories.
[sorry, I love telling people that story and see their reaction…almost as good as telling them I lost 300+ pounds in 17 years]
However, to the matter at hand. I read this story to my spouse, a retired childrens’ librarian, and she was….wowed. And, I can tell you, I told stories for Childrens’ sermons for 30 years when I was working, and I’ve had people tell me years later THAT is what they remembered…..
Not only the story, not only the ‘actor’ but the ‘re actor’. Thank you Marcy—-and Lois?
LOVE this, Andrea! You’re quite the storyteller yourself. You’ve had some impressive accomplishments in your life … I’m sure it speaks to your character. I’m delighted this post resontated with you, and appreciate you taking the time to say so!
Getting out of my own life and finding a different perspective on life’s foibles always compels me to read whatever I can get my hands on. Writing in my journal to reflect on the day’s event helps too. Those events can be the basis of many of my own stories. The events of the day can make me think of a way to “tweak” them with the outcome I want, I need, to tell on paper. To hear a child just gets it give me hope for the craft of the written word. It’s not easy, but liberating!
GREAT TO SEE YOU, SARAH! You’ve been missed …
I journal as well. On a daily basis, it can feel just like whining, but when I go back and read over after at least a month, I can see the patterns in my life. The places where I’m excelling, and the places where I need to change my own story.
Thanks,Marcy. It’s been a tough couple of months, creatively. Been trying to work through a HUGE bundle of disappointment and feeling inadequate. But lately the urge to write is coming back, oh-so-slowly. At least now I can look at my journal and feel a little more compelled to enter a few thoughts. Life and disappointments, I tell ya. I’ll get back, I hope!
Sorry to hear about your pain, Sarah. Disappointment + inadequacy feels like trying to climb out of a PIT OF DESPAIR. Journaling always helps me. Buying a big notebook like I used in house and writing for 3 pages every day: whine for 1 page, acknowledge my accomplishments for 1 page (even if it’s just writing in the stupid journal), then looking at my goals and To Do’s to work on getting out of that pit.
Sounds simplistic, but it helps. Email me if you want to talk more privately. Good luck to you … you can do this!
Marcy, I would have had tears in my eyes when that kid said that! Isn’t that the only reason for writing… or singing, dancing, painting… Stories change me while I write them; they change those who are gracious enough to want to listen to what I wrote. Artists affect the world. And since we do, we’ve got a mission to make the world better – like you do in “Pennies from Burger Heaven”.
Honestly, the whole thing happened so fast with the little boy that the full impact didn’t hit me until I was driving the 120 miles home alone. I was like, WHAAAAAT? It was really sweet and crazy and wonderful. I soooo wish I’d asked his name, but maybe the mystery makes the story even better.
Thank you for the compliment about Pennies. I truly appreciate it as I’m staring down the sequel.
Marcy, Can I say “Snap!” I was asked the identical same question this week when I was presenting my new childrens’ book to a class of 10-y-olds (here in the UK that’s their 6th year of formal schooling …). I had to tell them exactly what you said: if I didn’t write it down, my skull would split from the pressure!
This week, the same class were invited to be the Judges of a childrens’ book competition organised by the BBC. They were interviewed on a live national TV programme (called “Blue Peter”) and showed themselves a credit to Liverpool schools!
I LOVE that we had the same experience recently with children. It gives me such hope for our world. How wonderful that class was on national TV. I NEEDED to hear this good news. Thanks for sharing, Paul!
I have traveled everywhere!!!!! Never been many actual places for real…. just thru my books! I am fixing to celebrate my 84th birthday…. still an avid reader….. the story of the little boy is beautiful!!!!! No words could express better than words from evidently a very wise child!!! Can you imagine the delight of being his mother!!!thank you
Marcy Mason McKay
Congrats on your 84th birthday, Tommie. I love how you describe stories as taking you EVERYWHERE! Isn’t that the truth?! Your comment made me smile. Many thanks.
This is so cool!!! That little dude has to make a cameo appearance in one of your stories sometime 🙂
Marcy Mason McKay
What a funny sentiment, Em. Maybe wise wonder boy does need to make a cameo. Thanks for the idea!
You’re welcome honey
Exactly!!! Whatever I am reading is happening to me! Couldn’t have said it any better. I have traveled many places and done and seen many things thanks to books. I encourage all children to read and then discuss what they think about it.
Marcy Mason McKay
That’s right, Kathleen. Books take us on adventures all over the world, and clearly, you’ve done that. Thanks for your comment!
I’ve always loved stories, too. I loved going to all the different places and meeting so many new people. My biggest regret is that I didn’t start writing when I was younger. I made notes and wrote down pieces and parts, but saved the hard work for after retiring. Some days, writing is a lot of fun, but others, it seems more like drudgery. When the writing gets to be trouble, I go back to reading.
I read to my boys when they were little, hoping to instill in them a love of reading. I love the little guy in this article. He definitely deserves a place in one of your stories. And, after talking about Pennies from Heaven, I’ve decided to read it again.
Marcy Mason McKay
You know, I also wished I’d honored my to desire to write when I was younger, but I was just too afraid to tell anyone. I can’t change the past, so I’m just trying to enjoy now that the world knows I’m writing.
I wish I could remember which author said this, but he said something along the lines of some days, his writing flowed. Other times, it was painful, but he worked on his book everyday, no matter what. In the end, when he read the published copy, he couldn’t tell the difference between the easy and hard times. He’d polished it all out.”
I LOVE that you want to read Pennies again. Makes my heart happy!
I love stories because they saved my life. I survived an abusive, lonely childhood with the help of books, movies, and television. The only thing the mediums have in common was a good story. Sad stories, happy stories, adventurous stories – doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they take me somewhere else. Even now, living a life I love with people who care about me, sometimes I just need to get away, and stories help restore me. Thanks for making me think today, Marcy!
Marcy Mason McKay
You bring up an important point, Adan … stories help us escape unhappy situations. I know just a tiny bit of your backstory and hate that you faced such pain as child, but also understand that you grew into an awesome adult!
I’m like you in that I’m surrounded by a loving family, but still need to sometimes lose myself in a great story