Story telling or story writing is the most dynamic and effective expression of the human heart. With skillful crafting, a story has the power to influence us to action, to change our perspectives, to challenge us to overcome difficulties, and to motivate us to higher levels of achievement throughout our lives.
When a person dies, that unique gift or talent that God has given him, that unique place in this time world that belongs to him and him alone, dies with him. Therefore, it is imperative that we tell our story; that we use our gifts for the purpose for which God has intended.
Teaching through storytelling
Jesus taught through the medium of storytelling. His parable often began with, “Once there was…”
He told stories that people could easily understand, could identify with, and His point was driven home by a divine motive to help humankind. He was the master storyteller, using simple but thought provoking language that often left His audience speechless, inspired, and awakened to their own soul need. As Christian writers, we endeavor to intertwine the same qualities into our own stories.
Preserving a Legacy through Story
Everyone has a story to tell. When I write a story based on fact or an oral history or family legend, I adopt the role of storyteller. Some family stories stick indelibly in our minds, lodging there, impacting us with their poignancy, their humor and inspiration. Some stories evoke strong emotion: sadness, joy, dismay, wonder, and awe.
You can probably think of some story that has affected you deeply, a story that should be told, and a story worth remembering. That was why I felt Elizabeth’s story (The Wild Rose of Lancaster) should be told. It was too great a tale, a real life story that could not be left untold. Elizabeth was too colorful a personality to be left unsung. I mist tell this story.
There are many ways to organize your own storyline, and there is no right or wrong way, no formula that must be strictly followed, but here are ten steps that I use when writing story and they are not necessarily in this order.
Ten steps in Writing a Story or Family Saga
Where to Begin
1. “Muse” on your idea, that continuous theme that has stuck with you and caused you to think and rethink the particular circumstances that made the story worth remembering. Let this story take root and germinate. Build and expand on your ideas. Do not hurry this process. Live with your characters for a while, get to know them and become familiar with the setting.
2. Create a note file of ideas, thoughts, situations, and circumstances you want to focus on. Include the setting, time period, and significant local events. Think about the conflicts and obstacles your characters might face and incorporate them into your story outline.
3..Develop a theme that you can weave throughout your story. Examples: Right prevails, loss and recovery, crime doesn’t pay, love conquers all, inherent goodness, failure and success, overcoming the odds, etc.
4..Choose an appropriate setting. This can be real or fictional, but it must be a place familiar enough to describe and depict accurately. The reader must be able to see it, to feel it, to experience the location.
* When I wrote the Wildrose series, I chose my own home county and the town of Lancaster OH, a place where the story took root. Research is absolutely necessary if you use a real location.
5. Gather material from personal or oral history, from libraries, the attic, friends, family histories, records, journals, and online archives.
*I used Elizabeth’s own stories and written records from the Davidson family history.
*I gathered heirloom postcards, photos, and treasures from the attic, every personal piece of memorabilia I could find that belonged to Elizabeth or her family.
*I researched the colorful history of my Scottish ancestors.
6. Research the setting carefully.
The library and the internet are wonderful resources. I bought numerous books on Fairfield County and the village of Lancaster. I studied the town patriarchs, the county foundational stones.
* I located old city maps, bought historic newspapers from e-bay, perused library records on local geography. I studied the climate, the flora and fauna of the area, native birds, trees and flowers.
*I walked the streets of the town, to choose my street locations, climbed Standing Stone, and talked with the local people.
7. Choose your characters.
Sometimes, this is the first step because we relate the characters to the storyline itself. We write about people and the circumstances that shaped their lives. Once your characters are firmly in place, you are ready to name them, put them in a house, and give them a family. You understand their weaknesses, their foibles, and their strengths.
My characters were already chosen when I began the Wildrose series. I created extensive character charts detailing the character’s personality and developing them further from oral and written history. I read their letters, journals, postcards, and began to piece together the past. My characters came to life, like the ‘dry bones’ in the Bible.
Scenes began to play before my mind. I began to write my story and as I wrote, the inspiration began to take over and sometimes the story moved of its own accord. I found my characters voices and expanded on them. My ancestral heritage came naturally into the script, coloring their personalities with echoes from the past and painting in the scenery with interesting detail.
8. Create a chapter outline with ideals you wish to incorporate into your storyline. Your characters should tell the story through their actions, conflicts, events, and dialogues. A good storyteller tells the story in such a way that the reader is unaware that the writer is present.
9. Write to a “target” audience. Whom do I want to reach? Who would benefit by sharing this story? Where is the market?
10. Consider your own personal goals in telling this story. Create a mission statement. What do you hope to accomplish? What do you want the reader to come away with? What relevance can the reader apply to his or her own life? Can you develop a tale that would be in keeping with the integrity of your characters and your own spiritual ideals as the author?
From a Christian perspective, can you make your reader laugh, cry; feel that life is worth living and that the bend in the road is not the end of the road? Is your story idea meaningful enough to challenge someone who needs to know that God is the answer to life’s perplexities, to life’s adversities, and to all that affects our relationships?
If you can say “yes,” then…just do it. Write your story.
Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat