When these moments came for me, however, my dreams weren’t to someday be a cop or put out fires; I just wanted to make a movie or write a book about it. And my dream has come to fruition with the release of my first book, The Shepherd.
But to what can I attribute my undying love of stories?
It started as early as I can remember. I wasn’t an only child, but since my three sisters are so much older than I am, it felt that way growing up. I’ve always been an introvert and my favorite pastime as a young boy was playing pretend with my action figures and my imaginary friends (as my parents called them). But I’m not sure if they were truly the imaginary friends that we traditionally think of. I say this because they were more like characters in my own little movies. At the time, it was a boy playing with his imaginary friends, but I still do basically the same thing as an adult, only my imaginary friends find life on the pages of my books.
I’ve also been an ENORMOUS fan of movies since I was very young. How many ten-year-olds do you know that had a calendar hanging on their wall marking the release dates of every major Hollywood production? I would force my parents to take me to sometimes two or three movies in a single weekend. We would often hit the 4:30 matinee at the theater, walk out, and drive straight over to get a good spot at the drive-in or turn around and walk back into a 7:00 o’clock showing at the same theater. In high school, I would rent a couple of movies every night from our local video store, although I did still find time to date, sing and play guitar in a rock band, play sports, and serve as our senior class president and valedictorian. Not much has changed since then; my wife and I still take in a movie every weekend. Shortly after college, I also discovered a great love for reading, sometimes consuming three to four books a week. For me, movies and books have always been and always will be magical experiences. But still the question remains. Why?
I think there are many reasons, but I’m going to touch on two in particular for the sake of this article. The first of these is probably very unique and personal to me. The second is why I feel the entertainment industry exists in the first place.
The first, very personal reason is that the only time that my brain truly “shuts off” is during a great movie or book. What do I mean by that? The easiest way to describe it is that a thousand small televisions are constantly playing within my head. Imagine the giant wall filled with flat screens that you can find within most Las Vegas casinos, the ones that are playing all the sporting events and horse races. Now imagine that wall behind your eyes. That’s kind of what it’s like for me. This example may be slightly exaggerated, but it gives you a basic idea of the concept. It’s not something that keeps me from functioning in any way, and I’ve learned to ignore most of the screens and focus on the real world around me, but it can be tiring. For some reason, when I’m sitting in a movie theater or reading a great book, the rest of the world and all of those other screens disappear.
The second big reason that I love stories is one that I think many others share with me: stories allow us to escape. They allow us for a few moments to be the hero, to get the girl, to save the day, to fall in love all over again or for the first time. Let’s face it, most of us live pretty ordinary lives. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; I’m glad that no one is trying to kill me as I’m writing this and the world isn’t being overrun by hordes of alien parasites or flesh-eating zombies or the multitude of other bad things that often happen in books and movies. But isn’t it cool that we live in a world where we can pull back the curtain and experience a glimpse of what it would be like as an FBI profiler, a fireman, a lone assassin, a special forces commando, or the President of the United States. We only get to experience life through our own very limited perception, but through the magic of stories, we can become other people. We can stand on the outside and look in on a world of endless possibilities, and we can do so from the comfort of our own homes.
That’s why, for me anyway, stories truly are magical.
International bestselling author Ethan Cross is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month, which means we are offering sensational deals on his work. You can read more about the program here.