Is there a kind of story so good - so well executed, so resoundingly right and true - that it makes you a better person for having encountered it? I think there is. And I believe that anyone who's ever aspired to become a storyteller - whether as a writer, illustrator, director, or other creator - can attribute that ambition to at least one such story. A story that bowls you over, that makes you stop and take renewed stock of your life and the world around you. A story that forces you to reevaluate your goals and outlook.
A story's poignancy isn't determined by its own merits alone. To work properly, a story has to open up a line of communication between its author and its audience - a kind of one-way dialogue made up entirely of action-and-reaction - the results of which rests most heavily on the audience's reaction. In order for a story to have the kind of impact that can alter a person's life, it has to resound in the specific ways and areas that resonate with the fixtures of a person's values and beliefs. That a story crafted by one isolated individual could achieve such a resonance with another person across time and space is itself a minor miracle. That also means that a story that inspires and impacts one person might not reach another - at least not to the same extent. A story's effect on an audience member falls on a continuum, and no confluence of author-story-and-audience ever falls on the exact same spot.
This dampens somewhat the usefulness of pointing out specific examples that have made an impact on me. There's no guarantee that what I've found to be poignant and influential will have the same effect on anyone else. But I think illustration by example may be the most accessible way to demonstrate how this miraculous conflux of entities - which is, I think, the ultimate goal of any storyteller worth his or her salt - can occur.
Accordingly, this series of posts will introduce the stories that have made this sort of lasting impact on me, and the path that has led me to where I am today.