Well Told Stories

Every life is a series of stories, and each person an endless repository of action, emotion, and relationship. One of the goals of literature is to capture that collection of raw material, and frame the narrative in such a way that those who read the finished product are invited to participate in a vicarious experience. If the stories are told well, readers can feel pain, joy, love, fear, or wonder. They are able to cry when a lover is betrayed, cringe when the hero of the story is under attack, or crawl under a blanket and hide to escape being discovered by the intruder.

I remember coming home from work one day and discovering my wife and children watching a scary movie on TV. All three of my kids were on the same sofa, huddling together under a blanket as the terrifying story unfolded before their eyes. The fear was real. They were experiencing the lives of the people on the screen.

That’s what happens when a good book is placed in front of your eyes, too. The reader can learn, grow, increase in wisdom, or even become a better friend or lover as a result. Sometimes, reading a selection can lead to anger, motivate to action, or inspire a deeper faith. Other times, you come away so afraid you want to lock the doors and shut out the world.

Each writer obviously has a unique personality and writing style, and every story has a different theme and mood. But good writing should warm your heart, provoke you to action, inspire you to travel to a place you’ve never been before, or entice you to want to read more. Some stories will cause you to question what you believe, and others will affirm what you already consider to be true. Perhaps you’ll find yourself sitting in your chair with a smile breaking across your face, or see yourself in one of the scenes.

This article is excerpted from the introduction to a book titled Reflections: An Anthology of Memoir and Short Story, which may be purchased on Amazon .

Writing a Book Review

When you read a book, it’s really helpful for you to write a review on Amazon, and maybe even on Goodreads. That helps other readers decide whether to buy the book. If it’s a book you like, it’s especially important. When you write a review, however, there are several guidelines to keep in mind.

  1. If you know the author personally, don’t mention it.
  2. Say what the book is about.
  3. Give a few specific examples from the book itself.
  4. What did you like about it?
  5. Does the author accomplish his or her purpose?
  6. Do you recommend the book?

Here’s an example of a book review:

On Parr (2)I just finished Ken Murray’s “On Parr” about a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. The story about Colonel Ralph Parr is fascinating, but so is Murray, the author. I found him to be part research historian, part flight instructor, and part master story-teller. The combination enables Murray’s skill as a writer to hold you in your seat, turning page after page, wanting to find out what happens next. He gives inside information about what it was like to attend an NFL game when the stadium announcer tells the crowd that Pearl Harbor was attacked. He describes in detail what it feels like to dive straight down in a fighter jet from 43,000 feet and pull up barely in time to avoid slamming into the ground, right behind eight Russian MiGs, and taking out the enemy leader. His narrative includes figures of speech, dialogue, and technical information. It’s full of sensory detail: sights, sounds, and smells. He doesn’t shy away from the emotions the characters in the stories are dealing with during hellish battle scenes of war: fear, anger, loneliness, or depression. In the process, Murray brings the reader into the action, into the context, into the time period. I discovered nuggets of wisdom, such as how to approach relationships when starting a new job, and how to balance your personal life with your career. Murray does a really good job showing the interplay between national and international politics, and how it impacts average citizens as well as military personnel. And, while shining the spotlight on Colonel Parr, Murray manages to reveal a bit of himself. For he, too, is a decorated military aviator, an accomplished writer and editor, and an outstanding example of a human being who has so much to offer. I recommend the book.

British Library Book and Chain 2