“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.”
― Alice Munro, Selected Stories, 1968-1994
“Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”
― Terry Pratchett
“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”
― Virginia Woolf
“That’s how stories happen — with a turning point, an unexpected twist. There’s only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day
“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.
That is their mystery and their magic.”
― Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
“It’s impossible to say a thing exactly the way it was, because of what you say can never be exact, you always have to leave something out, there are too many parts, sides, crosscurrents, nuances; too many gestures, which could mean this or that, too many shapes which can never be fully described, too many flavors, in the air or on the tongue, half-colors, too many.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
“All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel.
All of them?
Sure, he says. Think about it. There’s escaping from the wolves, fighting the wolves, capturing the wolves, taming the wolves. Being thrown to the wolves, or throwing others to the wolves so the wolves will eat them instead of you. Running with the wolf pack. Turning into a wolf. Best of all, turning into the head wolf. No other decent stories exist.”
― Margaret Atwood
“The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no?
Doesn’t that make life a story?”
― Yann Martel, Life of Pi
“Stories–individual stories, family stories, national stories–are what stitch together the disparate elements of human existence into a coherent whole. We are story animals.”
― Yann Martel, Beatrice and Virgil
“Endings to be useful must be inconclusive.”
― Samuel R. Delany
People tell stories about their stories at literature festivals. It’s interesting how the meaning of this word has come full circle. Originally, in the 13th century, stories had to be true: the word was a synonym for ‘history’—indeed, it came from Latin historia. But very soon it was applied to stories alleged to be true, and then (by the 16th century) to stories that were definitely not true. Today, the original meaning seems to be reasserting itself: I’ve lost track of the number of historical television programmes called “The story of something-or-other.” Maybe it’s time to resuscitate the verb use too: in the 16th century, there was a splendid usage: to story forth, meaning ‘to proclaim the story of.’ It’s what happens in dictionaries and thesauruses, after all. Which reminds me of the story that Eric Partridge tells, in The Gentle Art of Lexicography, of the old lady who borrowed a dictionary from the town library. She returned it with the comment: “A very unusual book indeed—but the stories are extremely short, aren’t they?”