After posting “A Thread of Reality” last night, I felt empowered. In chatting with a friend about the post, he commented that with transparency comes vulnerability. And with vulnerability, I thought, comes the chance to be hurt…badly.
As I lie awake in my bed, I pondered why I want to tell my story. What makes my story worth reading? What makes my story so special? The answer was surprising–nothing and everything. In and of itself, I’ve got another sob story about being bullied as a teen, recovering from self-injury, battling two serious ailments at 21, a dad’s affair, a broken marriage, and a nervous breakdown. The fact that most of it happened within a span of 12 years, the worst parts in a span of five, make it a bit more interesting. Still, people have better stories to tell. To that end, nothing makes my story worth reading.
Yet my story is one of hope and faithfulness, mostly due to God, and the people He placed in my life at crucial times to help me weather these storms. These individuals are intricately and wonderfully woven into my most trying moments, and my story is also their story. I find their story both telling and worthwhile.
God’s role in my life is by far the most fantastic. Without Him, there would be no story to tell. From the moment He began knitting me together in my mother’s womb, my story began and it continues to this day. Since my main purpose as a human is to bring glory to God, how can I not tell of His faithfulness? God makes my story everything.
Interestingly enough, “Storylines” was the theme at the 2007 National Youth Workers Conventions, where youth workers were invited to see their role in the bigger picture of God’s story. As a writer, I loved that theme and found it compelling. I guess that’s how I started thinking about all this stuff, about getting serious about writing my book. But as I write, I’d love to see others be encouraged to write as well.
Now there are various types of writing. When I work with writers at Youth Ministry Exchange, they have to have a certain level of skill and proficiency with word smithing. However, personal storytelling need not be good; it just needs to tell a story. Obviously, if you have hopes of getting published, your story should be well-written and interesting. But that’s not necessarily the point of writing–sometimes the point is just to write. That being said, here are some tips on the art of story telling.
1. Find your main hero or heroine and build your story around him or her. When writing a story, I find it easy to pick one protagonist and build the story around him or her. This is easy when I interview an individual, because obviously, he or she is the protagonist. It can be tricky when I interview more than one person because there are different stories within the same story to tell. A good rule of thumb, though, is to pick your hero (or heroine). Perhaps the hero you pick is you!
2. Emphasize a struggle. Some common struggles include–man vs. enemy, man vs. God, man vs. himself. If you don’t have some sort of struggle, then your story isn’t well-grounded.
3. Make sure you build a good foundation to support your story. No one likes it when a story doesn’t make sense. For example, when writing a memoir, if you start talking about your husband and children, but never mention that you got married, it causes confusion. If you wonder about your husband’s faithfulness, establish that your own father was unfaithful. It helps the reader understand where you are coming from.
4. Allow your other characters to take on lives of their own. Let their personalities shine–the good, the bad, and the ugly. It gives a better view of people if they are well-rounded.
5. Just get it out; you can edit it later. When you write, don’t worry about whether it’s good or bad, just keep writing. As you revise your piece, you will take the meat and spit out the bones. You can go nuts making sure everything is perfect on a first run.
6. Tell the story, even if no one reads it. If you want to write a story, any kind of story, just do it. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or if your friends will like it, just tell your story. God seems to like to tell stories, and Jesus told quite a few while He was here on earth. Story telling is part of what it means to be human, to be made in the image of God. By sharing bits of yourself or your imagination, you are doing part of what you have been created to do, and hopefully giving glory to God with your words.