Before we delve into what stories do, I think it is necessary to define what a story is, from my perspective. What am I thinking of when I use the word story?
I believe that a story is a creation of a secondary world through which the reader can enter in and experience life from a different perspective, in order to nourish his or her soul in ways he or she could not from his or her own limited perspective.
As we read stories we do enter into the experience that the storyteller is creating, living by our imagination in the story. Stories allow us to experience outside our own limited perspective. C.S. Lewis wrote this about science fiction works done well:
They give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience.
The chief end or purpose of a good story is to nourish the soul. Stories, good stories, promote growth, they furnish or sustain with nutriment, that nutriment being truth. Good stories proclaim truth about the world, they proclaim reality in a story. It is a created reality, but reality nonetheless because it portrays reality and truth.
Not all stories do this, but well-written, well thought out stories will portray reality and proclaim truth. They won’t do this is a preachy way, but they will do it in an accurate way.
Alister McGrath wrote this from Lewis’s perspective: “The ‘imaginative’ is something produced by the human mind as it tries to respond to something greater than itself, struggling to find images adequate to the reality. The more imaginative a mythology, the greater its ability to ‘communicate more Reality to us.'”
As we work our way through what stories do, I hope to be able to show the truth of the statements, illustrated in well-written stories.