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I think that the most fundamental difficulty that people struggle with is that all the evidence suggests that there are other people, quite distinct from themselves, who have lives, stories, and the rest of it. That there are six billion and more individuals on the planet, each of whom is conscious, thinking, who can tell the story of their life.

And then, once they get past that, they have to face the amazing, seemingly improbable fact: that some of the most definitive of their own charactaristics–their parents, their nationality, their gender, the color of their skin, their personality itself–are random, could be completely different with only a small change. That instead of being born a white male of middle-class parents who lives in new hampshire, I could as well have been a beggar in iraq, or heir to a huge japanese corporation. That people are born on a regular basis for whom all these charactaristics are, in fact, different, yet match any conceivable combination of heritage and personal characteristics.

This is why people read books, watch television: they’re desperate for stories, because to tell a story well is to reveal what it might be like if you were born a different gender, in a different time, to a different heritage. They tell how things might have come out of some of those random factors that make up a person turned out just a little differently. They succeed because no matter how heroic or villanous the protatgonist is, the audience identifies completely with that person and, at least within their minds, lives the tale. We do it because it’s a refreshing difference, with excitement and true emotion, so different from the life we live on a day-to-day basis.

I’m still working on why people write stories. I think it has to do with economics.

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