The excerpt below, from the Preface: The Nature of Short Fiction; or, The Nature of My Short Fiction by Joyce Carol Oates, sums up why we tell stories. There is no “reality” without a coherent story.
Life has no meaning without the narrative we construct around it. How we experience reality, politics, country, ourselves and others has to do with the STORIES we tell ourselves (and others). Different Character Types have very different narratives, world views, and ascribe very different meaning to the same events.
Here is how the very prolific Ms. Oates (whom I once had the pleasure of meeting at Princeton University) puts it:
“We write for the same reason we dream- because we cannot not dream, because it is in the nature of the human imagination to dream. Those of us who “write,” who consciously arrange and re-arrange reality for the purpose of exploring its hidden meanings, are more serious dreamers, perhaps we are addicted to dreaming, but never because we fear or despise reality.
As Flannery O’Connor said (in the excellent book of her posthumously-collected essays Mystery and Manners) writing is not an escape from reality, ‘it is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.’ She insists that the writer is a person who has hope in the world; people without hope do not write.
We write in order to give a more coherent, abbreviated form to the world, which is often confusing and terrifying and stupid as it unfolds about us. How to manage this blizzard of days, of moments, of years? The world has no meaning; I am sadly resigned to this fact.
But the world has meanings, many individual and alarming and graspable meanings, and the adventure of being human consists in seeking out these meanings. We want to figure out as much of life as we can. We are not very different from scientists, our notorious enemies, who want also to figure things out, to make life more coherent, to set something in order to single out meanings from the great confusion of the time, or of our lives: we write because we are convinced that meaning exists and we want to fix it in place.”