Everybody has a story.
It’s as simple as that. For each person born, there is a story, waiting to be told. Possibly thousands of stories, just for this one simple being. Humans thrive off of story. It was our first and best teaching tool. It was how we lifted ourselves up from our base natures.
With all of those stories, how does one compete amongst the masses? There is no one way to know that, but it starts with resonance. A story must resonate with those listening, or the audience drifts away, looking for stories they can feel.
I remember the first time I read DragonSong by Anne McCaffrey. I was completely swept along by the story of a girl who was an outsider in her little village, but who had unusual sensitivity and talent. Her village didn’t understand her gifts or appreciate them, and so she ran away. Along the way she found tiny dragons who adopted her and became fiercely protective of her, but she also managed to find another place to live. In this place she was taken in by people who discovered her talents and showed her that they were beautiful. While I never got a batch of tiny dragons to call my own, Menolly’s story sang straight into my bones and I felt understood.
This is why diverse stories are so important. In the midst of our troubles and how to get along, we forget that every other person on the planet is struggling, and that they need stories that resonate with them just as much as we need stories to resonate with us. This is why nerd culture has become king in the last ten years. Stories that resonate with nerds are coming to the forefront in force. Those ‘silly old comic books’ that everyone looked down their noses at back in the day have crawled their way out of ignominious rejection and into four story tall IMAX surround sound gilt reality.
The nerd set is different than other types of self-identifiers. Nerds come in all shapes in sizes, sexual identities, races, creeds, genders and breeds. There is a dominant nerd phenotype, but nowadays, their dominance is being threatened by everybody else. Just as nerds reached the top of the societal pyramid, they felt their place threatened by other nerds who don’t affiliate with their culture. Rather than reach out a hand and lift their brothers and sisters up to join this growing army, they lash out because their heroes are now being portrayed as Mexican, or black, or female. Rather than allowing comic books to experiment and tell new stories, their core audience is mortally offended because Thor handed his hammer off to a chick.
Diversity isn’t something we should do because it’s nice. Diversity is the norm of the entire planet, and humans pretend like they can’t see it. The whole world has invited itself to the party, because stories are something everyone has in common. There are stories for everyone, and a big enough stage to share them. They may not be perfectly tailored to us but they can still resonate powerfully years after we’ve seen it, heard it, or read it.
No one story will resonate for all people, but it is important to give stories the room to capture their audience. No one has to like every story. There are 7 billion people on this planet, not all of them are going to agree about which X-man is the coolest. Being open to stories is how we grow, and showing casts of people from different backgrounds, different identities, and different beliefs could very well be how we end war and poverty. It starts with empathy, and that begins with resonance.