Book review: What Stories Are You Living? by Carol S. Pearson

As a writer and editor, I appreciate any resources that draw on storytelling techniques to broaden my perspective of the world. That’s what attracted me to What Stories Are You Living? by Carol S. Pearson.

To be clear, What Stories Are You Living? is not a book on the writing process. Its focus is self-help, psychology, and learning more about yourself so you can live your best life. But like all books that delve into personalities and our psyche, Pearson’s book helps us examine what drives us and how we interact with our world. And as such, it can be useful in helping you delve into the characters you write, and their relationships with one another.

What Stories Are You Living? Discover Your Archetypes - Transform Your Life by Carol S. Pearson - a book review

What Stories Are You Living? begins with an expanded list of Jungian archetypes, along with a test — the Pearson-Marr Archetype Instrument (PMAI). The test results reveal which of 12 archetypes you’re most like right now, and which you’re least like. You’ll get a sense of where you fall on the spectrum for all 12 archetypes, and a chance to delve into what this means for your life right now.

The PMAI test results remind you that you have elements of all 12 archetypes inside you, with some manifesting more than others at given times. And you can choose to develop whichever ones you want, or borrow elements from the ones you’re least like when it’s most useful to you. Much like the mythical hero’s journey as envisioned by Joseph Campbell, Pearson envisions these personality types as vital to our own personal hero’s journey in life, as well as how we impact the world. Personality and purpose are intertwined, which is, after all, the best way to write fictional characters, right? See how this relates to editing fictional works?

“The more you identify as a hero who forges your own path,” Pearson explains, “the more you will recognize the contribution you can make is uniquely your own and is needed by the world.” In this and other passages, she makes it clear that learning your archetypes sets you on a path of giving back as much as it gives you insight into yourself.

And it’s worth considering how this applies to your own writing, your personal goals, and even your business. I use storytelling techniques in business marketing content too — the customer is the hero, and the business is the mentor or guide. But what type of character is your customer? You’d talk differently to a Jester than you would a Warrior, right? Differently to an Idealist than to a Realist?

You can see how thinking about storytelling techniques and about the psychology of personality are handy for writing, editing, and doing business. It’s why I like books like this. There are always creative ways to tie concepts like what Pearson shares to the work I do for my clients.