Stories Are What Make Us Human by Cecil Wilde

If I may borrow a sentiment from Junot Diaz, if you want to make a person into a monster, deny them a reflection–turn them into the vampire of so many stories, a human-like creature cursed never to see itself. Being able to see oneself in stories, in the tales we tell each other about the world and all the people in it, is how we understand who we are and how we fit into the grand scheme of things. The way we relate to each other, form friendships and kinships, is by way of our shared stories.

The thing that makes us human, above all else, the thing that unites us, is our inescapable need to tell stories. Did you know that our working theory on why most people’s memories of the past don’t really start until they were old enough to understand language is that in order to create a cogent, useful memory, we have to be able to tell ourselves the story of what’s happening to us? Stories are so fundamental to human nature that we would cease to function without them.

Now let me tell you a story. I grew up like most other people of my generation, with 90s television shows and library books as my guide to What The World Was Like. It will surprise no one who has ever met an author that as a kid, you’d have to pry a book out of my hands to get me to stop reading it. The number one bribe of my childhood was more reading time, and as I aged, the consumption of stories was always my number-one favourite thing to do. I am a sum of the stories I have consumed over my lifetime.

The first book I bought with my own money was an omnibus of the complete Sherlock Holmes stories. At thirteen years of age, I’d finally found someone who was like me–weird, incredibly bad with people, unable to cope with the fact that everything happened so much all the time and that no one else seemed to be quite like me.

I treasured those stories for years. For all of their flaws and gaping plot holes, they were the first time I felt like someone like me could have value and be loved and wanted, without having to pretend to be something else.

When I was a little older, only a few years after the revelation that I was not, in fact, totally alone in the world, I was once again totally alone in the world. I had crushes on boys, and I had crushes on girls, and this was, to my fifteen-year-old self, literally unheard of. I knew about being gay–one of my friends had just come out at our Very Catholic school, and another would come out as a lesbian only a few months later. Plus, there were gay characters on TV! Like all good 90s kids, Buffy was part of the fabric of my life. I knew how gay worked. I didn’t know that bisexuality existed and this wasn’t something I’d figure out until I was seventeen, when all my friends laughed at me for saying I was bi-in-theory (‘in theory’, because I was and am the Most Awkward Human).

Which was the end of my bisexuality for a few years.

Skip forward another handful of years to twenty-one-year-old-me. This time, I was figuring out that I was, in whatever way, not a girl. After a long journey of self-discovery and a whole lot of intense research, I was lucky enough to finally put a little-known name to what I am, and I am now as you see me today: a cloud of genderless sentient mist.

It took a lot of finding out that there was such a thing as a person who is not male or female. I learned that there were others who felt like me almost entirely by accident, because there are no stories about people like me. I was alone and confused and incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin for years before I was finally made aware that there was a word for what I was, and a whole community. I hated myself because I thought there was something wrong with me.

I don’t want that for anyone else. I want people to see themselves in stories, because stories are so fundamental to the way we see ourselves.

Don’t write stories about the people who don’t always make it into stories because you think you have to. Don’t do it because Twitter tells you daily how important diversity is. Don’t, for the love of tiny kittens, do it to tick an imaginary box.

Do it, and do it well, for the people who are alone. Reach your hand out across the stories that make up what humanity is, and hold onto someone else’s just by letting them know that they exist.

Do it because it’s the most precious thing you can give to another person: the sureness that we’re human. 


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About Cecil Wilde

Cecil Wilde is a queer romance author, professional bisexual villain, and procrastination enthusiast. They write books about cute queer people getting happy endings, since using all their powers for evil seems cliché. 


About A Boy Called Cin

a boy called cinOn the search for a cup of coffee before the guest lecture he’s giving, Tom spies a tired, half-frozen young man who looks even more in need of coffee than him. On impulse, he buys the man a cup—but an attempt to strike up conversation ends in the young man walking off, seemingly put off by Tom Walford—the tabloids’ favourite billionaire—buying him coffee. But when he reappears in Tom’s lecture, all Tom knows is that he doesn’t want the man slipping away a second time. 

Agreeing to dinner with a man he only knows from internet gossip columns isn’t the wisest decision Cin’s ever made, but he wants to like the infamous Tom Walford and he can’t do that if he doesn’t give the man a fair chance to be likeable. Which he is, almost frustratingly so, to the point Cin wishes maybe he hadn’t been so fair because he never had any intention of getting attached to Tom, who seems to come from a world far too different from his own for anything between them to last. Little does Cin know, they’ve got a lot more in common than he imagines—including their shared discomfort with their assigned genders, and all the complications that go with it. 

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thanks for you post, I found it quite moving & that was an amazing quote at the beginning. I also like the sound of your book :)

    • I’ve always loved the sentiment in that quote, for me it encompasses why representation really matters. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • “I am a sum of the stories I have consumed over my lifetime.” – YES, so much this! And this, too: “Reach your hand out across the stories that make up what humanity is, and hold onto someone else’s just by letting them know that they exist.”

    And now please excuse me while I wander off to grab a copy of your book. :-)

  • “Did you know that our working theory on why most people’s memories of the past don’t really start until they were old enough to understand language is that in order to create a cogent, useful memory, we have to be able to tell ourselves the story of what’s happening to us?”

    That idea is fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Cecil. I’m glad that online social centers and info sources may make it easier for folks to find whatever word or idea helps them understand themselves, as well as new communities that aren’t geographically limited.

  • “Don’t write stories about the people who don’t always make it into stories because you think you have to. Don’t do it because Twitter tells you daily how important diversity is. Don’t, for the love of tiny kittens, do it to tick an imaginary box.”

    At the risk of sounding like a snobby know-it-all, I can always tell. I can tell who has diverse characters because they want to see themselves or their beloveds reflected in stories, who does it because they believe (and I agree) that diversity in characters creates richer, more complex, more *interesting* stories… and who does it because their market research tells them that diversity is “in” this year. I wish every writer who did this could also read this: “Do it, and do it well, for the people who are alone. Reach your hand out across the stories that make up what humanity is, and hold onto someone else’s just by letting them know that they exist.” as a reminder that these “diversity quota achieved!” characters they’re slapping into their stories are real people, and that these are their wonderful, precious lives we as authors are trying to portray. Because we owe it to all of our characters to give them as rich and full and *real* a voice as possible–and especially to those characters whose voices are rarely heard at all.

    (As an aside, Natalie Portman did a lot of research for her psych degree into story rehearsal as a means of memory creation. She says she has very few clear memories before age 12 because, with no siblings or friends and two busy parents, she didn’t get a lot of opportunities to retell the stories of what happened to her each day. Telling our stories really does make us who and what we are!)

    • I feel as though I can always tell when an author doesn’t really *mean* it with diversity, too. You know when you really are seeing yourself and your loved ones versus a cold tick of a marketing box. Hopefully, most people see through that and it’ll encourage more earnest diversity.

      I did not know that about Natalie Portman and now I kinda want to read her thesis! My recollection of the theory of memory comes from undergrad child psych so I definitely don’t have all the relevant info but that sounds like it would be super interesting.

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