“For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you’re taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy.
What is the secret of a good story? And why aren’t we taught to tell stories the ways children in Calormen are taught to tell stories? I believe the answer to the first question is – feeling. And the answer to the second is – the sacred and secular divide.
A good story is felt. Audiences can all tell a fraud when they read it. When a writer doesn’t truly care for the reality of the characters they create, their spiritual and emotional reality. The story rings hollow, it smells of propoganda, it falls flat. They know this from their deepest feelings.
In her memoir, Sarah Turnbull, a journalist in Paris, writes of interviewing Kristin Scott-Thomas. The actress was once stopped outside her Parisian apartment by a fan not for – “can I have a photograph?” or “I liked the English Patient” but rather to hear, “thank you for the emotion.”
Turnbull remarks – where in the world but France would anybody say that? Thank you for the emotion.
Herein lies the rub. By speaking the language of our heart stories and art, moves something much deeper in us than the logic can account for.
It fascinated me that around the time of Hitchen’s celebrated release of “God is not Great”, there were queues around blocks in major cities to buy the final Harry Potter novel. In one, a scientist, declares that all spiritual pursuits are contribution to injustice and evil in the world. The other explains how evil exists within two parallell worlds, one shut off from the other through a combination of fear and alienation.
In her stories, Rowlings takes on 300 years of western philosophy which has worked to alienate sacred and secular – to tell a story of epic struggle between good and evil. The readers voted and their passion broke publishing records.