Steinbeck and Stories

John Steinbeck once said:

“If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.
In this I make a rule — a great and interesting story is
about everyone or it will not last.”

Steinbeck offers an interesting perspective about writing stories.  I do believe great novels have common overarching themes with which most readers can relate to (morality, coming of age, love, death, etc.) and that great oral stories follow the same rule.  As we are learning with Colorado HealthStory, some of the most compelling stories can be centered on an idea that may appear relevant to  a select few, yet engage a much wider audience.

For example, Myrenna, an Aurora, CO resident delivers a wonderful narrative about her son’s experience with Asperger’s Disease, a mild form of autism.  She describes her struggles and triumphs, and one feels empathy and compassion for her and her family.  While most of us will never know what it is like to have a family member with Asperger’s, we can relate to her determination to see him succeed, her frustration when her crusade seems hopeless, and her satisfaction when she makes a difference.  Colorado HealthStory provides an opportunity for community members to support one another, despite having very different experiences.  If after hearing Myrenna’s story, more people are simply more knowledgeable of Asperger’s, she has achieved her goal of increasing awareness.

I believe that all of Colorado residents’ HealthStories are about the “hearer,” the all encompassing “everyone” and that one may find a little of his or her own story in each of the others.

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