A story is any sequence of events that inspires these questions: And then what happened? Why? How? Does it matter who is asking these questions of meaning? What if it’s only the narrator who cares? Or, what if the audience seems to find more meaning in the tale than the narrator does? At what point does the story go back to being an ordinary sequence of events?
It’s very possible for an audience to find different meaning in a story than the narrator sees in it. Think about the times a person has told you a story from his or her past. You, with your personal experience and knowledge set, put the pieces together a little differently than your friend does. You draw your own conclusions because your friend is closer to the story and sees and experiences it differently than you do.
It’s also possible for a narrator to feel like no one else finds meaning in his or her story. Sometimes this means that the story is not being told effectively, or that the story needs a different audience. What it doesn’t mean is that the story isn’t worth telling.
Whether they’re fictional tales we’ve woven from our imaginings, or accounts of things that have actually happened in our lives—stories are part of who we are as people, and wanting to tell our stories is one of the ways we share ourselves with others and strengthen connections. We do this in all sorts of ways: conversing in coffee shops, giving testimonies in church, sharing at twelve-step meetings, calling in to radio stations, telling bedtime stories to our kids, sending letters, posting on Facebook, submitting magazine articles, writing novels.
Not all these stories will wind up being published or even popular. But if a story is inside us and needs to be told, we should find a way to tell it, because this makes us more whole and more connected. If the story has meaning to us, it is worth telling