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Story quotations
My subject is beginning to oppress my mind as a nightmare does the body. My head is full of ideas, of which the order is not yet clear to me, and which I must consider singly. I should like to run, but I can only drag myself slowly along. You know that I never take up my pen to support a system, or to draw, whether wrongly or rightly, certain conclusions. I give myself up to the natural flow of my ideas, allowing myself in good faith to be led from one consequence to another. Therefore, till my work is finished, I never know exactly what result I shall reach, or if I shall arrive at any"
Alexis De Tocqueville, letter to J.S. Mill Esq., Nov 10, 1836, culled from the Memoirs, Letters and Remains of Alexis De Tocqueville.. 1862 edition, vol. 2.
The universe is made of stories, not atoms."
Muriel Rukeyser, poet
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.
Robert McKee
It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story."
Native American saying
There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don't see them.
Elie Wiesel
There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.
Maya Angelou - American poet
Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.


"There is a dream dreaming us."
saying of the aboriginal San of the Kalahari Desert, cited by Robert Wolff, author,  Original Wisdom
I will tell you something about stories, (he said)
They aren't just entertainment.
Don't be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
All we have to fight off
illness and death
Leslie Marmon Silko
The first draft of everything is shit.
Ernest Hemingway
The degree to which literature excites usually depends upon the extent to which the taboo explored is forbidden.
Robert Burdette Sweet, Writing Towards Wisdom; The Writer as Shaman
Write at least until you become blihering and exhausted and have o control over your pen. Then write more. The point is to permit what you repress to surface, to dream through words.
Trust yourself.
When reading over what youíve written in this uninhibited manner, circle whatever images, ideas, names or events that repeat. And if you write long enough in a submerged state something will repeat. After all what Hawthorne did was write guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt. And Kafka did write father, punishment, father, father, father and Hemingway did growl cowardice, courage, cowardice, cowardice.
Robert Burdette Sweet, Writing Towards Wisdom; The Writer as Shaman
Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.
In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.
It is frequently the tragedy of the great artist, as it is of the great scientist, that he frightens the ordinary man. If he is more than a popular storyteller it may take humanity a generation to absorb and grow accustomed to the new geography with which the scientist or artist presents us. Even then, perhaps only the more imaginative and literate may accept him. Subconsciously the genius is feared as an image breaker; frequently he does not accept the opinions of the mass, or man's opinion of himself.
Loren Eiseley, The Mind as Nature
Art can only be truly Art by presenting an adequate outward symbol of some fact in the interior life.
Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) U.S. critic, social reformer, writer
It has taken me years of struggle, hard work and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realize that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple, beautiful sentence.
Isadora Duncan
Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.
It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.
Anaias Nin
Ninety percent of what we create is not our best work.
Robert McKee, at his Story Structure Workshop, 1999
A human being is nothing but a story with a skin around it.
Fred Allen
Fiction is not photography, itís oil painting.
Robertson Davies
The dirty secret of art is you donít have to show people your bad writing.  Thatís what we have the delete key for.
Robert McKee
The best defense is a good story.
Frederick Bush, on NPR, prof of literature, Colgate Univ.


The tears that we shed at a play are a type of the exquisite sterile emotions that it is the function of art to awaken. We weep but we are not wounded. We grieve but our grief is not bitter."
Wilde, The Critic as Artist


Cut quarrels out of literature, and you will have very little history or drama or fiction or epic poetry left.
--Robert Lynd
I cannot tell my story without reaching a long way back.
Demian, by Herman Hesse, 1925
In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.
Rachel Carson
"The history of the greatest princes is often the story of men's mistakes."
Voltaire, La Siecle de Louis XIV, chap.XI
The gods look with favor on superior daring.
Civilis, quoted in Tacitus' History
Consciousness is a disease.
Miguel de Unamumo, 1864-1937, The Tragic Sense of Life
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust
People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don't have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.
Steven Spielberg 
I've discovered I've got this preoccupation with ordinary people pursued by large forces.
Steven Spielberg 
If the boy and girl walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand in the last scene, it adds 10 million to the box office.
George Lucas 
Stories serve the purpose of consolidating whatever gains people or their leaders have made or imagine they have made in their existing journey thorough the world.
Chinua Achebe (1930 - ____) Nigerian novelist, Award Lecture, "What Has Literature Got to Do With It?," In "Sokoto," 23 Aug 1986.

It's all storytelling, you know. That's what journalism is all about.
Tom Brokaw


We start our lives as if they were momentous stories, with a beginning, a middle and an appropriate end, only to find that they are mostly middles.
Anatole Broyard 


Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. . . . You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.
Angela Carter


A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled.
Raymond Chandler (1888 - 1959)


All human beings have an innate need to hear and tell stories and to have a story to live by. . . . religion, whatever else it has done, has provided one of the main ways of meeting this abiding need.
Harvey Cox (1929 - ____) US theologian, social reformer, author
The Seduction of the Spirit," Simon & Schuster

The history of the world is full of men who rose to leadership, by sheer force of self-confidence, bravery and tenacity.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.
Alfred Hitchcock

The highest-paid person in the first half of the next century will be the "storyteller." The value of products will depend on the story they tell. Nike and many other gloabal companies are already manily storytellers. That is where the money is --- even today. 
Rolf Jensen
We are the first generation bombarded with so many stories from so many "authorities," none of which are our own. The parable of the postmodern mind is the person surrounded by a media center: three television screens in front of them giving three sets of stories; fax machines bringing in other stories; newspapers providing still more stories. In a sense, we are saturated with stories; we're saturated with points of view. But the effect of being bombarded with all of these points of view is that we don't have a point of view and we don't have a story. We lose the continuity of our experiences; we become people who are written on from the outside. 
Sam Keen
Wherever a story comes from, whether it is a familiar myth or a private memory, the retelling exemplifies the making of a connection from one pattern to another: a potential translation in which narrative becomes parable and the once upon a time comes to stand for some renaiscent truth. this approach applies to all the incidents of everyday life: the phrase in the newspaper, the endearing or infuriating game of a toddler, the misunderstanding at the office. Our species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories. 
Mary Catherine Bateson
Classic narrative is basically linear. It is like a river which has a source in an inland spring. The water bubbles up from the ground and sets off on a journey, pushed forward by the energy generated at its source. It twists and turns and gains momentum according to the obstacles in its path, as if it always has one aim in view; to finally reach and unite with its destination, the sea. 
Cherry Potter

The deep joy we take in the company of people with whom we have just recently fallen in love is undisguisable.
John Cheever

The fools think I am writing algebra but what I am really writing is geometry.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
Mark Twain

The longer we listen to one another - with real attention - the more commonality we will find in all our lives. That is, if we are careful to exchange with one another life stories and not simply opinions.
Barbara Deming

A good writer is basically a story-teller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind.
Isaac Singer

A song ain't nothin' in the world but a story just wrote with music to it.
Hank Williams, Sr. (1923 - 1953)

I wrote the story myself. It's all about a girl who lost her reputation but never missed it.
Mae West

In the writing process, the more the story cooks, the better. The brain works for you even when you are at rest. I find dreams particularly useful. . . . You can only learn to be a better writer by actually writing.
Doris Lessing

Stories are equipment for living.
Kenneth Burke

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.
(Orson Welles)

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.
(Hannah Arendt)

Make visible what, without you, might never have been seen.
Robert Bresson


Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.
Gene Fowler


Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I'm writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is.
Anne Rice


Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
Gustave Flaubert


We work in the dark--we do what we can--we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
Henry James


You sell a screenplay like you sell a car. If somebody drives it off a cliff, that's it.
Rita Mae Brown


Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.
Edgar Allen Poe


No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.
Robert Frost
Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious disease.
Peter Abelard, in "Letter S, Abelard to Heloise"
The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can't help it.
Leo Rosten


Writers are only rarely likable.
Joan Didion


The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.
Anais Nin
There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
W. Somerset Maugham

Those who tell the stories rule society.



Dreams surely are difficult, confusing, and not everything in them is brought to pass for mankind.  For fleeting dreams have two gates: one is fashioned of horn and one of ivory.  Those which pass through the one of sawn ivory are deceptive, bringing tidings which come to naught, but those which issue from the one of polished horn bring true results when a mortal sees them.

Homer The Odyssey XIX, l560


Myths are the stories we tell ourselves to explain the world around us and within us.

 Pamela Jaye Smith


All good stories are ten percent true.

Colonel Dennis Fanning


Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.

Edgar Allan Poe, poet and short-story writer (1809-1849)


Skill without imagination is craftsmanship.  Imagination without skill gives us modern art.

Tom Stoppard


One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)


To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty of nature. If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in.

Richard Feynman, physicist, lecturer, adventurer  (1918-1988)


"There is a dream dreaming us."
saying of the aboriginal San of the Kalahari Desert, cited by Robert Wolff, author,  Original Wisdom

Struggle to trust what your unconscious is up to, no matter how bizarre, how forbidden, how complex. The main characteristic of creative persons is an enormous tolerance for ambiguity. Permit yourself not to know. You are writing the story to find out what happens and why. Since the story is writing itself, you canít know the ending, You canít know the middle. You might not know the beginning.
Robert Burdette Sweet, Writing Towards Wisdom; The Writer as Shaman
If you are the same person after reading a book, seeing a picture, hearing music, then what you read, saw or heard was not produced by an artist.
Robert Burdette Sweet, Writing Towards Wisdom; The Writer as Shaman
IfÖ the prime dictate for the modern writer is to disappear, the third person still has the disadvantage of obviously being written by an author. But if a character narrates the story in the first person, virtually all author interference gives the impression of having gone away. Especially if the character is not to be trusted. Then we can listen to the tale as we would listen to anyone, always wondering what is eing exaggerated, what is being left out and what is a blatant lie. The untrustworthy narrator is especially useful when exploring the conflict of man against himself. Our present age with its psychological emphasis and cynical attitudes towards all authority encourages the use of this point of view.
Robert Burdette Sweet, Writing Towards Wisdom; The Writer as Shaman