"A second theory agrees that our unique language evolved as a means of sharing information about the world. But the most important information that needed to be conveyed was about humans, not about lions and bison. Our language evolved as a way of gossiping. According to this theory Homo sapiens is primarily a social animal. Social cooperation is our key for survival and reproduction. It is not enough for individual men and women to know the whereabouts of lions and bison. It's much more important for them to know who in their band hates whom, who is sleeping with whom, who is honest, and who is a cheat...
The gossip theory might sound like a joke, but numerous studies support it. Even today the vast majority of human communication — whether in the form of emails, phone calls or newspaper columns — is gossip."
— from Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
While there's plenty to learn about writing from writers and their creations, there's also plenty to learn about writing from people who understand people. After all, it's people I'm writing about.
Harari's Sapiens left me with an enormous amount to consider, but his research also enabled me to reflect on a life-long question that just keeps nagging at me: Why am I so obsessed with storytelling? As it turns out, it's not about me at all. All humans are obsessed with telling stories because that's very possibly how language evolved. We were telling stories before we thought to write them down, and long before the world wide web existed, enabling us to share them globally.
I'm a storyteller not because I'm special or talented; I'm a storyteller because I'm humoring my hardwiring and giving in to one of the most basic impulses we all share. We're all driven by storytelling, by characterizing people and situations in order to categorize them in our minds. The ending will differ depending on who's a hero and who's a villian, and there are times when keeping track can mean the difference between life and death.
As a child, I was told gossip is a sin. As an adult, I owe gossip for the craft I've chosen to dedicate my life to. Writing novels is a way to pay homage to gossip without engaging in it and hurting someone's feelings and/or reputation. Evolution isn't something that happened a long time ago—it's happening right now, to all of us, whether we like it or not. I am growing and changing as an individual while the human race grows and changes collectively. We are all in this together, and I am fortunate beyond measure to live in a time and society with the acumen to make that observance. Hindsight is still 20/20, even in the virtual age.
I think I'm sophisticated
'Cause I'm living my life
Like a good Homo sapiens