The title of the book, On Stories, is taken from the first essay. In it Lewis said he was surprised at how little attention critics paid to story. They were much more interested in the development of characters, the writing style, or the message of a book or play. He went on to talk about the distinct pleasure of story. Lewis notes that there are some people who just enjoy the excitement, the tension, the danger of a story. To them one story is as good as another. But he asserts that there is a pleasure in the appeal of the imagination in the story itself.
He didn’t believe that was the case with motion pictures. Especially with modern effects movies bring us to the most beautiful scenes you can imagine. But does anyone go to a movie because of the beautiful scenery? Although some of you may disagree, the story is also secondary in many movies.
Lewis talked about Rider Haggard’s book, King Solomon’s Mines. In the book the treasure seekers find themselves trapped in a pitch black, cold and airless cave. A unique horror is projected to the imagination of dying in such a place.
But when they made that into a movie they had to “cut to the action,” in any scenes that required imagination. Of course they had to add a girl in shorts to the original team. And instead of the threat of cold, dark and silent death, the director had to throw in a volcano. Lewis admits that the director may have been faithful to the canons of his art, even if he is ruining a classic for those of us who read the book first.
However much you love movies, when you sit down to write you are armed with the powerful medium of story. Lewis talks about the unique ways a story appeals to the imagination. When you're character is being chased by ship anyone in that ship could conceivably be just as dangerous as a pirate, but there's something that appeals to your readers when the Jolly Roger is hoisted into the wind.
In the introduction to the book, Hooper says both Lewis and Tolkien had for years feasted on Ancient myths particularly those of Norse origin. The difference between them was that while Lewis defined myths as lies breathed through silver, Tolkien believed in the inherent truth of Mythology. He said to Lewis one evening in Oxford, “Just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth. We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will reflect reflect splintered fragments of the True Light, the Eternal truth that is with God.” This was earth shaking to Lewis, and he held to it his entire life. All stories point to the one great story of redemption and grace.
I became aware of this not so much in catching the reality that there really was only one story, but by the power with which a story strikes the heart, especially where the gospel is being introduced to a culture by Bible stories.
As we write, even non fiction, we can weave stories that come from the story of stories and touch to depths of readers’ hearts.