“It doesn’t fit the narrative”


We, people, use stories all the time. We use them to express what it is like to be human, to define what is good and right as well as show what could be. What I think we sometimes overlook is that all these individual stories are nested in a cultural/societal narrative. This is an important thing to remember because the overarching narrative provides the structural value, or deficit, of the individual story. In addition, I could suggest that a narrative provides the ‘order’ so we can see the stepping stones to a future we want. It provides the structure for memories, plans, possibilities, and a future within which additional human stories can exist. We can use that narrative to suggest futures in which humans do not thrive, but even in doing that we also show the importance of humanness.

All the jumbled individual stories iteratively create an intricate web of micro-narratives providing substance to the macro narrative. Its not linear, yet, it will feel to all the individuals that there is some ‘defined’ path so that it doesn’t feel like total chaos.

Which brings me back to “it doesn’t fit the narrative.”

Narratives are ‘worlds’ and worldbuilding is the design of an imaginary world, beginning with space and time representations, but “potentially including complete cultural studies of inhabitants, languages, mythologies, governments, politics, economies, etc.”. In this case imaginary is not a bad thing. It is representative of the vague outlines of civilizations and societies. That said. They are not firm solid things, yet, they have an origin, whether we see them or not, and unfold non-linearly all the while conveying a sense of a connected whole. I say this because if something happens to you, an individual, and it neither matches with a narrative a person has created in their head or a narrative borrowed from media or even crafted with a stilted view of reality, well, that person ends up simply not believing it. Why? Because it doesn’t fit the narrative. The story isn’t quite aligned with the created narrative. In fact, it may not even be coherent with the narrative. I say that because mental narratives can be very thin novels. And that is important because story coherence conveys a sense of a connected whole wherein the community creates a narrative of the world which is supported through the actions they make (which create individual stories). Yeah. I purposefully made that sound absurdly self-perpetuating because that is how this whole “it doesn’t fit the narrative” works. If the story perpetuated doesn’t fit the narrative, the narrative cannot be wrong so the story is wrong (even if the story is solidly real).

Which leads me to narratives and stories.

While there are a number of examples of dystopias, there are far fewer examples of what it takes to build desirable worlds, if not utopian ones. Life requires a full spectrum of stories and narratives. Stories that inspire, but also stories that are honest within reality’s narrative – of good, bad, and somewhere in-between. We need to go beyond the binary of utopia and dystopia narratives, towards more nuanced images of the world so that we can effectively tackle the future. If we do that, it seems – at least to me – that we would say ‘it doesn’t fit the narrative’ a bit less and unlock all kinds of new stories that the world needs a bit more.


Written by Bruce