Q. When you wrote your script and realized that, like characters in movies, people are stuck in their stories, did you wonder why we write stories in the first place?
A. During the screenwriting process, two powerful, hidden illusions became clear to us. The first is that we believe that we are the main character in an evolving story. This illusion creates a unique sense of self (our "narrative identity"), as well as coherence and meaning. It's a way for us to feel that we have a sense of control and direction in our lives, as well as to project our "character" to others.
The other illusion, which most people are unaware of, is that those around us also believe that they are the main characters in their stories. And so they try to keep us consistent and coherent in our roles, as one of their supporting characters.
Once those illusions become clear, the power and ubiquity of storytelling becomes obvious.
From an evolutionary standpoint, stories were the most efficient and effective way to convey information that helped us survive. We internalized the emotion-infused, cause-and-effect accounts of life, and learned to negotiate both the hostile physical environment (Goog was eaten by a sabertooth tiger when he wandered into that field) and the shifting social environment (We don't know what happened to Ug. He disappeared after a disagreement with Gakk.)
Fast forward a few hundred thousand years and storytelling remains the most powerful form of meaning-making and communication. We tell stories to ourselves to make meaning about our past, imagine our futures, and craft our identities.
We tell stories to our children to tap into their emotions and influence their decisions (John quit college and look what happened to him.) And we gossip at work in order to understand others and thus protect and promote ourselves (We don't know what happened to Ralph. He left after an argument with the boss.)
Beyond the utility of storytelling and the sense of control it instills, we love to hear and watch stories because, like drugs and alcohol, they help us temporarily escape "reality." Shared stories also connect us to each other in a powerful way.
The bottom line is that stories are a proxy for living. They allow us to learn about and experience the world—the full range of emotions of living a full, chaotic and exciting life—while in the safety and comfort of our caves or living rooms.