Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Stories are important!

Today is my birthday, and this afternoon we went to an amazing puppet performance at Millenium Park in Chicago called "A Rabbit's Tale."   Culturally it was an eclectic fusion:  Punch and Judy style hand puppets, gigantic person-inside figures that might have come from Carnaval in Trinidad and Tobago, and smaller puppets operated by puppeteers in black in the style of Japanese Bunraku theater.  The story was sweet and poignant, and it also featured a story-within-a-story, in fact a "puppet show within a puppet show." And it worked.

Seeing all these different puppet cultures come together made me think about how important stories are to people.  We tell stories about what happens to us, and use them to make sense of our experiences.  Or we write stories about people and the things that happen to them.  And we write stories inside of stories.

That little play within a play this afternoon took me by surprise, but when you really think about it, stories inside of stories happen all the time.  Shakespeare's Hamlet has its play-within-a-play.  Anne McCaffrey has an entire tradition of Harper songs written into her Pern books.  Frank Herbert wrote historical accounts into the Dune story.  The list goes on and on.

Of course, I mustn't forget my own planet Garini and the gecko people who believe stories are sacred - or the novel I'm writing now, which is essentially a story about a book (though of course it's much more than that)!

I'm not saying that every story world needs to have its own version of puppet shows, or theater.  But you can learn a lot about a people by hearing their stories, even if those people exist only within a story you wrote. 

Good night, and have fun writing your stories...