Who hasn’t had a similar experience? When we submit to fiction--whether in novels, songs, or films—we allow ourselves to be invaded by the teller. Chuck Wicks was in my head, squatting there in the dark, milking glands and kindling neurons.
I wrote The Storytelling Animal in an effort to understand how fiction—the fake struggles of fake people—can have such tremendous power over us. The book is about the way explorers from the sciences and humanities are using new tools, new ways of thinking, to open up the vast terra incognita of the storytelling mind. It’s about the way that stories--from TV commercials to daydreams to religious myths—saturate our lives. It’s about deep patterns in the happy mayhem of children’s make-believe, and what they tell us about story’s prehistoric origins. It’s about the hidden ways that fiction shapes our beliefs, behaviors, ethics—how it powerfully modifies culture and history. It’s about the ancient riddle of the psychotically creative night stories we call dreams. It’s about a set of brain circuits--usually brilliant, sometimes buffoonish—that force narrative structure on the chaos of our lives. It’s also about fiction’s uncertain present and hopeful future. Above all, it’s about the deep mysteriousness of story. Why are humans addicted to stories? How did we become the storytelling animal?
Jonathan Gottschall (2012) The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.