How Has Story Impacted You?

 

Story empowers. Changes. Matters. Affects.

Whether we read a story book or hear a friend’s tale or see a movie, we experience it as if we live it. Our brain lights up in the same areas as if we had been the character ourselves. Fascinating! The result: we grow and change and spark others on to the same as we share our own (or ones that have become our own) stories.

Birth stories teach us about the miracle of life and birth. Who can help but shed a tear at the moment the mother sees her newborn’s face in Call the Midwife on Netflix? These stories give us the strength to push through our own birth adventure or admire those women who have done so.

Coming-of-age stories show us how difficult it is to grow up and discover who we are created to be but also allow us to experience the joy of it. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee teaches me that surface differences only hide our similarities and that judgment hurts others.

Love stories give us hope that there is someone for us, someone who understands us and accepts us for who we are. My favorite love story shows that no matter what I’ve done, there is someone who knows me better than I know myself and who still loves me. That love story is found in the New Testament.

Adventures allow a safer way to feel the thrill of events for those of us who might not put skydiving or war or swimming with dolphins on our bucket list but secretly would like to try (or know about) certain thrills. I loved experiencing what life is like in North Korea by reading The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Happy to not have to experience what the protagonist did while discovering the pain and reward of an ultimate sacrifice.

Mysteries, crime, science fiction, historical and more have their own flavors, and since we all are different, provide us with stories that appeal to our own tastes. One example I just read is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a story set in WWII about the tragedy of war but also a story of how kindness can prevail even in awful circumstances.

Even contemporary fiction has a wide range to give us a glimpse into different cultures than we are in. Socioeconomic, gender, race, and religion differences–to name a few–blur in the pages of story. Right now, I’m reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. The protagonist is a self-educated French concierge who is befriended (and maybe more than that) by a wealthy Japanese man. Here I’m learning to embrace who I am and not adhere to who society thinks I should be.

Family stories told around the dinner table or at family gatherings tell us how those who have gone before us are still with us to teach us. My great grandmother immigrated with a friend from Finland at age sixteen in 1897, not knowing another soul and never seeing her family again, because she wanted to go to America where she would lie under a “raisin tree to eat raisins whenever she wanted.” Her name was Sunna and her story taught me to follow my dreams.

How have the stories you’ve read, heard, and seen impacted who you are today? I’d love to hear how.

 

 

 

What Gift?

 

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Five hundred words?

Makes me hum that old song, “Five Hundred Miles,” when I read my first line, which in the song is a long way to go. But five hundred words in a blog post is not many.

As long as you have something to say.

I don’t like to buy gifts out of obligation. Just because it’s someone’s birthday or a shower for a friend’s daughter or yet another anniversary. I feel the gift needs to be useful to the receiver.

Otherwise, it’s a waste of time for both the giver and recipient. And I guess I have been feeling a similar duty about my blogging or rather lack of blogging. Like an overdue letter to a friend.

But most fiction writers struggle to come up with things to say in what is a nonfiction format. For a fiction writer to write primarily nonfiction feels contradictory or at least inconsistent with what they do.

Writing is a gift, both for the one writing as they explore what they are passionate about and for the reader who makes her own discoveries through those words.

I want my gift to have value for my reader. Like the stories I write. A character like the reader who wants something but runs into difficulties in attaining it. And sometimes finding what they want isn’t what they get. Or need.

I want my words–five hundred or even less-than-three-hundred, like today– to be useful, beneficial, encouraging. I want my letter, my gift, to you to make you glad you went to the mailbox.

Why do you read a blog?

 

 

Why Read Fiction?

People say fiction is only make-believe and those who read it want to escape life.

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Nonfiction is reality, they say; fiction isn’t. Why waste time?

It’s true that non-fiction describes life accurately. But fiction births—in a way we can embrace it—truth.

In story, we enter the world of the tale through words. We need to use our imagination to comprehend. We must see, hear, taste, touch, and smell what the characters sense. And when we do, the narrative comes alive.

We become the character. We conquer life. We grow.

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We gain courage as we encounter difficulties, even impossibilities, with the characters. We see the world in a new way and understand things about life we hadn’t before we picked up the book. We learn we are loveable just as we are although we aren’t perfect. We perceive we are not alone. We comprehend our experience is universal.

And, in the end, we will be okay.

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Good storytellers listen to the stories within them and tell its truth. This fiction heals the reader (and the writer). Story is a balm for our wounded lives, a safe place we can go. Again, not to escape the world but to make sense of it.

When a child in a tumultuous home is given the gift of reading and books, he carries a torch to see a bigger and better world. He believes he can conquer the dragons in his own world in his own way.

He wins hope.

When a woman feels isolated in her problems, a story becomes a place she can see she isn’t. Her mind, spurred on creatively by reading, finds solutions she hadn’t thought of before the story.

She gains hope.

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Maybe she even sees God.