GUEST: Stories as a Sense of Community


In lieu of anything from me, my good friend and inspiration Andrew Knighton has very kindly provided a blog post for you today. I think that everyone who has an interest in the written word can relate to this:

It’s easy to get lost in a good book, TV show or film, to become cut off from the world around you. Some people see that as anti-social, but I don’t. Even as you’re immersing yourself in a story, you’re laying the foundations for relationships with other people.

Nerding It Up

I was recently at Nerd East, a convention in north east England for gaming, costuming and other forms of geekery. Coming back after a year off, the con felt really small, yet there was still a liveliness to it that I really enjoyed. Within minutes of entering the building I was having an excited, in depth conversation with a complete stranger about Attack on Titan. We weren’t strangers any more.

Stories gave us something to talk about, a way of understanding and connecting with each other. Later in the day, I ran a workshop on plotting stories. It was amazing to see the energy in the room as people talked about their own stories. Some of these people were old friends, some had never met each other before, but they were given a shared sense of excitement by inventing imaginary people and imaginary worlds.

Crafting Relationships

The next day I was in a café in Otley, and found myself sitting across a table from a man I’d never met before. It wasn’t like Nerd East, where everyone had shared hobbies. But somewhere in among the polite nods and quiet pleasantries of two Englishmen forced into close proximity, that process of making just enough conversation to not make the silence awkward, he mentioned something about poetry. Rather than just nod and get back to work, I asked about his favourite poets. Then he asked about mine. From there we got onto books, and low and behold, he was a fan of some of my favourite authors – Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Iain Banks. For half an hour we talked about books and literature. We weren’t just strangers sat near each other, but people sharing our enthusiasm, discussing deep and exciting issues.

You’re Never Alone With a Book

Without stories, I wouldn’t have had anything to talk about with any of these people. Despite our reputation, few English people can talk about the weather for longer than it takes to pass someone in the street. Politics, society, religion – these topics are as likely to cause awkwardness and acrimony as to bring people together. But stories, and a passion for stories, that’s something we can all share.

You’re never alone when you’re reading, watching or listening to a story. Not just because of the people you’re imagining in your head, but because of all the people you can share the experience with later.


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