Human behaviour is a peculiar thing. There’s just so many of us, and so many different kinds of us, that it’s hard to pinpoint what “human nature” actually is. While that’s up in the air, what is certain is that stories are the study of being.
No matter what story you experience, no matter what genre or medium it is expressed in, the one thing they all have in common is the exploration of human behaviour. The main characters will all behave in their own unique ways that either clash with or compliment each other depending on their temperament and relationship to each other.
Maybe one character is easy going while another believes in strict discipline in conducting their lives. Let’s just name these two characters Mary and Sue. Mary would be the type of person who calls her friends out randomly whereas Sue prefers to schedule her hang outs and jot down the dates and times these occur in her day planner.
The conflict these two can have is that they’ve been best friends since pre-school, but they have diverged into having different responsibilities in life such as jobs and families that occupy most of their time, so it’s really hard to keep in touch. Mary keeps calling Sue to hang out on a random night where Sue is already scheduled to watch her kid’s soccer game. Sue tries to schedule a hang out time with Mary, but Mary is disorganized with her time that she goes out drinking one night and is hungover on the morning she and Sue are supposed to have brunch.
Throughout the story, you as the audience get to explore the core being of each character, and how each of their behaviours have their pluses and minuses: Mary’s spontaneous ways keep things fun and exciting, but can also hamper on the precious resource of time to which she’s spending carelessly. Sue’s strict schedule allows her to organize her time and spend it like a precious and scarce resource, but she can also end up becoming a slave to her planner, allowing no room for spontaneity and fun surprises.
And even more peculiar thing about human behaviour is how we all affect each other when we are in proximity of each other. Every little interaction we have with conflicting and complimenting mentalities reshape us and leave us taking a piece of the other person to adapt into our own mode of being. In our example story, Mary could teach Sue how to let loose a little bit and have more fun instead of worrying about the next appointment. Sue can teach Mary how to prioritize her life better so she doesn’t lose track of the days.
One of the fundamental functions of storytelling is exploring and expressing different modes of being. Modes that either inspire you or warn you on how to be. What are the costs and benefits of acting a certain way? Assuming a story is written well enough to show the most logical and realistic consequences of certain behaviours, your audience or you as an audience member will have a manual on how you can better yourself, and make better use of the relationships you have, especially with people who you share some conflict with.
We’re all here to help each other grow and part of that means allowing contrary philosophies to challenge our own.