75. What Can We Learn from Fiction?

Whether it’s a movie or a book, we often think of fiction as a break from the seriousness of the real world. But fiction plays a very important role in our human lives and it’s how many of us learn important life lessons. Today Connor and Brittany discuss the role fictional stories play in our lives.

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Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So, One of the read things I love about being a writer is that I get to tell stories Now, the stories I tell are real. they are usually things to happen in the news or things that politicians are doing but other writers write fiction and that’s what I like to do when I’m not writing. I like a lot of fiction but im and one of the reasons I read fiction so much is that I feel like it allows me kind of escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, get to kind of lose myself in someone else’s story. I mean, there’s really nothing better, especially when the weather is all rainy and cold, curling up with a good book. What about you Connor? Do you read a lot of fiction?

Connor: You know, I mostly read nonfiction because I’m typically just trying to learn new things. But the fiction that I’ve enjoyed the most in the past is, well, there’s two types. one is dystopian fiction. We’ve talked about that in the past when it’s kind of portraying something really bad happening in the future. You know, governments in control. And I, like those stories because you know, of course, the protagonist, the character in the book, you know, ultimately, typically will succeed, right? In the end, they kind of beat the, you know, system and, find freedom either for themselves or many others. And I like those cuz those are inspirational to me in my work, right? Like, they get me really motivated about, yeah, they did it. So can I? Yeah. And so I, like those kinds of stories. I also like, I’m trying to remember the name of the genre. I think it’s just called like historical fiction where, there will be, you know, it’s, real events, it’s really happening. Like my kids right now are reading, what’s it called? Rush Revere, I think. So it’s never heard of that. It’s Rush Limbaugh. but he becomes kind of like Paul Revere. And so, its

Brittany: This is the Real thing.

Connor: So it’s a series of books that Rush Limbaugh publishes and it Wow. Teaches you some stuff about American history. and so it’s events that are really taking place at the time. Another thing is, Liberty Kids. This was a fun Yes, I love that one. Community series, I think PBS put it on. But yeah, there’s fictional characters who, are kind of going through their story at the time of, you know, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and so forth. And so through that fictional story, we’re able to kind of learn more about what happened. And so I like that because it’s a fun way to learn about history, but not just in a history book where it’s like, these things happened and then this guy did this. it’s more story based, because what I’ve learned over the years, and, so this is a really good secret for all the kids listening, is that there’s like, our, brains are like a computer and like computers. There’s, a code, right? There’s like a programming code that’s involved the way that our minds are coded, the way that code works is the story. Yep. Story. It literally, like you can upload something into someone else’s brain like a computer. It’s like putting a, like in the Matrix, right? Where you kind of plug them into the matrix. If you tell someone something in a story, they’re way more likely to learn it or be persuaded by it, rather than you just kind of lecturing them or tell, like, that’s why the TuttleTwins books are so fun for a lot of kids is because we’re not just sitting down and saying, now we’re gonna teach you what inflation is, and now we’re gonna talk about sound money and you know, what, the problems with dollars are and the Federal Reserve. No, like, that’d be immensely boring, but through a fun story, you know, a lot of the kids out there listening to this have read that book and have learned all those ideas through stories. So it, it’s the way our brains are wired. It’s the way they work. So I love reading stories because it is such a way to kind of communicate ideas to other people.

Brittany:

That’s, I’m really glad you said that. Cause that’s kind of the point I wanted to get to is it’s, you know, fiction is not just for fun. Even though we love these fantasy, almost like stories, it can be a really good teacher for us. And not even just like you said, you know, rooting for the underdog. If you believe you can do it, you can do it. But also just dealing with trials and adversity because there’s no story that just starts with, you know, once upon a time there was this happy little village and then they all stayed happy forever at the end, right? That doesn’t happen. Right? So our characters go through these really, you know, these trials and tribulations as we would call them, and they come out in the end stronger and better. So I think there’s a lot of lessons we can learn in our own life. I also think, so a lot of cultures, our own included pass down, you know, their histories through stories. And so you get a lot of the like, traditions of local, well, I guess what we call them, I don’t wanna call them tribes, but they kind of are like Utah specifically. I mean, you know, there’s a lot of local history that’s specific to Utah and it kind of embodies what Utah’s believe. They’re industrious people, they’re very, you know, they’re full of integrity, things like that. So these local stories can kind of help. In fact, fairy tales were often local stories. So Cinderella, we all know that story. I won’t tell, you know, I won’t rehash that, but every culture like has its own version of Cinderella and it takes different, it manifests itself in different ways depending on what the culture is. So that’s really interesting to me cuz it hits on what you said was a code. It’s almost like our brains know that these are stories, these are, these are anecdotes, if you will, that we like to hear and that we learn from. So let’s talk more about what we can learn from a good book. What is a lesson that you’ve learned Connor, from a really good fiction book,

Connor: I’ve, learned that, perseverance is so important. In fact, my, granddad he died about a decade ago, but when I was younger, he always used acronyms, right? Where kinda take the first letter of a bunch of words and turn it into, he’d

Brittany: Make up his own or he’d, or these,

Connor: He would make up, he would make up his own. And, and so he would always, as a kid, he would always say, Connor, p p p g. And that stood for persistence pays pretty good. And, and that’s such a good life lesson that I’ve internalized and remembered because so many good things in life come through hard work. You have to be dedicated, you have to follow through. And I love, you know, fictional stories that really emphasize, it’s not just like, oh, I had a problem and then I thought up a solution and then off I went to, you know, go, solve the problem and life was great. Like, no, some of the, the greatest stories are about adversity and, and trials as you pointed out. But those trials can sometimes last a while. You can sometimes fail, right? You stumble along the way you struggle to succeed. And so it’s inspirational for me to read stories and seeing other people’s, even if it’s true life stories, right? Maybe it’s kind of a fictional take on someone’s true life story, but like a biography. But understanding that good things come to those who persevere, who really try and work hard is really motivating to me because I don’t think good things in life come, you know, very easily. We have to work hard for things that matter. And so I really gravitate towards stories that have that type of focus.

Brittany: Well, and what that kind of is that what you just explained is something that Joseph Campbell, who’s one of my heroes, he called it a Hero’s journey. And it is his book that’s about this hero’s journey. It’s called The Hero With a Thousand Faces. And what that title means, and it’s kind of like I said with Cinderella, is you can have the same story almost. It seems nearly identical, but in every culture it might be a little different based on the culture or even, you know, maybe if it’s a female character, she’s gonna be a little bit different than if it was a similar story with a male character. You’re gonna have these differences. But the point of a hero’s journey is they all have like the same template, if you will. So they all start out the same. So you have this ordinary world, I like to use this with Harry Potter, cuz this to me is, is the most obvious and everybody knows Harry Potter. So in the beginning you have like the ordinary world, right? Where Harry just thinks he’s, he’s a muggle. If I’m assuming everyone knows Harry Potter. If you don’t know Harry Potter, we have bigger problems, But so it starts the ordinary world. He lives with this terrible aunt and uncle. He’s thinking, ugh, you know, my life is so hard, but that’s the way life is. And then he gets this call to adventure is what they call it, which for Harry would probably be receiving his, his letter to Hogwarts saying, you know, you’re, a wizard Harry. And then you have that moment where the protagonist, the hero just kind of thinks he can’t do it, right? He kind of thinks like Harry’s like, I can’t be a wizard, there’s no way I’m just a boy. I’m just Harry. And then they have to find mentors, which again, Harry Potter, he has so many Dumbledore Hagrid, so many. And then, you know, crossing the first threshold. So the transformation begins in the story. Our hero becomes stronger, becomes bigger when he starts transforming because of the bad things that happened to him or because of the trials that happened to him. And Harry Potter’s filled with so many, it’s hard to even pick just one. Obviously every book has like, its, what do they call them in video games? Like Final Boss? Is that what we called them?

Connor: Yeah, something like that. Yeah,

Brittany: Something like that. Yeah. Like the Final Boss. Uh, but, but they all follow this premise. You know, I did that with Harry Potter, but we could just as easily do this with a ladin. We could just as easily do, you know, ordinary World when Aladdin is still Aladdin and he is not Prince Ali, and then he gets the call to adventure. So all these stories, like they have the same element in it. And I think it’s really cool because I think it speaks to what you said, Connor, it shows us that humans kind of have a code that we’re kind of like computers in that way where we really like things to be in the same format because that’s how we learn from them. So I find it really interesting.

Connor: I do too. And you know, it’s not just for fiction books, it’s also movies.

Brittany: Yes.

Connor: You know, I know, I’m a big fan of the Matrix, which is, you know, for older,

Brittany: I’ve never seen The Matrix.

Connor: Oh, that’s a problem. Brittany, you would enjoy it. And so, you know, it’s in a star Wars. You know, you think of like Luke Skywalker, he’s on tattooing, right? He’s just this ordinary guy. like the format goes, it’s like a formula, I guess is a good way to put it or that code, right? It’s, you know, it’s ordinary person. You, you talked about Harry Potter, but, and Star Wars, it’s Luke Skywalker.

Brittany: Yes. that’s another good one

Connor: He’s called to an adventure, right? R two D two gives him a message from Princess Leia, asking Obiwan Kanobi to help her. And, you know, it goes from there, right? So you’re called to the adventure. You initially refuse the call, right? The hero is always very reluctant. And so Luke doesn’t wanna accept the offer, but then he meets with the mentor. You pointed out, you know, Haggard and Double Door for Harry Potter and in Luke Skywalker’s case who’s got Obi and,

Brittany: and Yoda later on.

Connor: True. Exactly. Obiwan gives him his dad’s light saber, you know, offers to train him. He then has to, what’s it called, like cross the threshold. He has to make things,

Brittany: You might me on something else cool too. If you think about it, that falls the same thing. So OB one gave, Luke, his father’s, light Saber, and Dumbledore gives Harry his father’s invisibility cloak. So just a cool little thing there.

Connor: Another little tie in. And I wanna talk about that in a minute cuz I think there’s an interesting criticism that some people have to all of let’s hear it, we can talk about it in a minute. So to finish the Star Wars story, just to see how the same formula that you mentioned for Harry Potter applies to all these other books and movies. And so in this case, we’re talking Star Wars. He, crosses the threshold, right? He decides to leave tattooing and accompany Obiwan to Alderon, to deliver the plans for, the Death Star. and so then of course, along the way there’s challenges and you meet allies and there’s enemies, right? So he picks up friends Han Solo and Shabaka, and they, you know, go on the adventure as well. And, I think like Lord of the Rings is another perfect example, right? You think of Frodo Bains and he’s, you know, go with Sam Wise Gaji and all his buddies to go on this adventure. So there’s challenges along the way. They, then approach, you know, the first challenger, right? And so the Death Star destroys Alderon, and they have to invade the Death star, save Princess Leia. Then there’s the ordeal. So the group rescues Leia, but Darth Vader kills Obiwan and the process. But then there’s, you know, the reward at the end. Luke decides to join the rebels destroy the Death star. you know, he refuses Han Solo’s offer to leave, instead decides to help defeat the galactic empire. and then he remembers ob Wan’s advice, and he uses the force to help him destroy the death star. This kind of victory at the end. And then there’s always the return at the end, right? The hero’s journey, part of the journey is the end. which is kind of funny. That’s what I think Ironman says in like the very last, Avengers movie. He’s floating in space and he says, he’s recording, this cause he thinks he’s gonna die. And, he says part of the journey is the end, but that’s part of this formula, this code. Yeah. It’s, you know, at the end you return back. And so of course Luke wins a medal, takes his steps towards becoming a Jedi, you know, and off he goes. and so it’s really interesting. Here’s the criticism that I wanna talk a little bit about. It feels like, or the criticism would say that these stories, these fictional stories, these epics, right, the, the big hero stories, and there’s so many others that we could rattle off that kind of followed the same template that they are, I’ll use the word formulaic right? They follow the formula and, someone might criticize that and say, well, they’re not being creative. It’s like you’re just taking the same exact story and swapping out the characters, right? Okay. Instead of Harry Potter, we’ll Do Frodo

Brittany: Skywalker, Whoever,

Connor: Right? We’ll change the scenery. We’ll change everyone’s names, but it’s the same story. And so you’re just copying and pasting, you’re just doing the same thing over. Why aren’t you coming up with anything new and creative? How would you defend the hero’s journey against that type of criticism?

Brittany: I would almost call it, there’s a musical term called Variations on a theme, and it’s very pleasing to the ear, for listeners. So it’s where something is similar. There’s got, you know, it has similar elements, but it’s done differently each time. It’s done differently. That’s how I feel about a hero’s journey. It’s, very hard. Sure, an author has a formula, right? You know, call to action this, this, this, this, this. But that doesn’t make the story interesting. What makes the story interesting is the individual things that happen to this character, right? So you still have to be creative. You still have to retell this story in a way that is compelling in many ways. You have to be more creative because it has been using the same formula for so many years that you really have to rely on being able to tell a really good, very unique, never been told kind of story.

Connor: Yeah. I think that’s an important understand. And it’s not like every fiction story has to use, the hero’s journey. Not all of them do. There’s lots of creative fiction out there that doesn’t. But when you’re talking about defeating an enemy, when you’re talking about rising above a challenge and overcoming the struggle, it’s almost, again, like the code in our brain. Like this is how things go in our own life, right? Initially we might be reluctant to, you know, tackle whatever the problem is. Maybe it’s asking for a promotion at work for the adults. Maybe it’s asking a girl to be your girlfriend for the teenagers. maybe the kids. It’s asking for more allowance. Like, we all have these struggles that we’re trying to figure out over, how to overcome. And, you know, you need some allies. You need a mentor, just someone to coach you and show you the way and say, I’ve been there, right? So then you’ve got your dumble doors, you’ve got your, who’s our Lord of the Rings friend with the,

Brittany: I’ve never seen Lord of the Rings either.

Connor: Oh my heavens. We’re gonna have to our next several podcasts, we’re just gonna 15 minutes at a time, play the Matrix in the Lord of the Rings. This is amazing. I’m learning all kinds of departments. Ok, well, there’s, time to repent. And it’s, oh my gosh. It’s, the guy with the big stuff and the beard, and everyone listening is shouting their,

Brittany: Oh, it’s, hold on. I know his name. It’s Gandolph.

Connor: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, you know, you got Gandolph, he’s the mentor, right? Or you’ve got Obiwan. And so we need mentors in our own life to, point us in the right direction and help us make sure we stay on the path. We are gonna have allies, we’re gonna have challenges along the way until finally, we decide to try and tackle whatever that big challenge was, and really try and, you know, move forward in life and overcome those struggles. So I think it speaks to us because it’s the way our life, is kind of structured. It’s the way humans work. It’s the way our brains have been wired. and so it’s very fascinating, how powerful fiction can be. Brittany, I’ll toss it to you for any final thoughts on

Brittany: This topic. I think you pretty much summed it up. my, I guess my last thing that I would say is to remember that you are all the heroes in your own story, which I think is a really cool thing because that means that you have an opportunity to, make your life really exciting, to make it a story that somebody wants to tell. So I think you should remember that every day.

Connor: I love that point. That’s a great one to conclude on, guys, make sure to head to Tuttletwins.com/podcast. Check out the show notes. We’ll link to several things about the hero’s journey and story that you’ll wanna check out. If you wanna, to keep learning more about this fun topic, Brittany is always great talking to you, and we’ll see you next time.

Brittany: Talk o you, next time

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