by Rachel Hauck
Over on Southernbelleview where I blog with a fine host of southern writers, our Friday Belle, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, wrote, “The whole world stops for a story.”
Her words hit me square in the heart. How true! The world does stop for a story. A news story. Or a book. A movie or play about the heroism or courage of another in the midst of adversity.
We gravitate to the storytellers, to the word weaves, of the world. In fact, Jesus was a master storyteller. We like to homogenize His stories by calling them parables, but how many times did He answer His disciples’ questions with, “Let me tell you a story. There was a vineyard owner…”
Story is everywhere. Story communicates. Story allows ordinary facts come to life.
Yet, while we can stop the world with a story, we can also bore the world with a story. We can lose our audiences as quickly as we captured them.
How so? We meander. We wander. We hack our way through our stories instead of crafting, instead of bringing characters to life.
We might preach or hammer the table with our message.
We might lie. Bend the truth. Nothing turns me off more than a skewed news story. The storyteller loses all credibility with me.
As novelists, we make up our stories, but it’s imperative we have one element: Truth.
Our stories, our characters, must ring true to the reader. In the midst of make believe worlds, truth is the one foundation that makes it all real, alive and believable.
Truth is what draws in the reader.
Truth is what makes the reader care.
Truth is what impacts the reader as they turn the page.
Truth is what makes them tell others about you book.
Truth is what storytelling is all about.
Look at Star Wars. It’s 1977 release was ground breaking. It introduced us into a world we’d never known. We fell in love with ordinary characters do extraordinary things.
But what truth did the story tell? It probably told many truths, but I’m going to say, “Good always wins. Freedom is worth the fight.”
When we watch Star Wars we root for Luke and Hans, and Leia. We want them to defeat the controlling dark side and Darth Vader.
Good guys. Freedom. It’s why the story still resonates.
Recently, I saw a clip of actor Brad Pitt on an Inside the Actor’s Studio. When asked about his “process” of getting into character, Pitt wisely answered, “My process is always changing.”
For him, each role was about the journey of discovery, of finding truth.
As an actor, or in our case, a writer, grows and changes, it’s important to hone the process of finding the truth of a character and what story he or she is really telling.
Pitt went on to say, “Find a moment of truth and the character will come.”
This is a profound for all of us who deal in character. Find the truth of your character and let it breathe, let it come. Let it shine on the page.
Pitt also warned about over processing. In our case, over planning, or writing too close to an outline or what we think the story is supposed to be.
While working on my next book, I wrote short scene where the heroine got out of bed and went to her window. She gazed into the night and longed to go out into the city. Her city. One she had yet to discover.
My eyes teared and I knew I’d written the theme of Song of Solomon chapter three into the story. The chapter where the Beloved is being called by her Lover out of her comfort zone into the city with Him.
Did I plan that? No! But I was writing the story according to my design yet seeking the truth of the story. In this case, I sincerely felt that “kiss” of the Lord on that one little scene.
Will it stay as written? I’m not sure. I even hold that loosely! But the scene is one link in the fast draft leading me to the truth of the heroine and her story.
I love those moments when truth breaks in, don’t you?
So, whatever your writing process, write to the truth of your character.
Rachel Hauck is a writing, learning, teaching author. She’s won an award or two, hit the best seller list but still feels like a novice. Her latest release, The Wedding Dress, debuted on the CBA best seller list. She lives, writes and worships in central Florida. Find her at www.rachelhauck.com and www.mybooktherapy.com.