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 .

Tug at the Soul

As a child, I loved stories. I still do! And I loved people who told good stories. My uncle was fabulous. My brother was into ghost stories.

But my sister bested them all, because not only did she tell wonderful stories, she then organized us, gave us our parts, created the scene, and showed us how to bring the story to life. I don’t know how many plays she created, directed, and had us perform. Her favorite names were Laura and Perry, so of course, she was always Laura and I was always Perry.

In the school library, I discovered more stories. My favorites were about animals. I must have read every book that featured horses and dogs—especially wolves. For some reason, these stories captured my imagination, took me to other places, and left me with a feeling of . . . a feeling of . . .

What if I was there? What if that happened to me? What would I do in that situation? The stories left me with the same feeling the people in the story had. And sometimes I experienced what the horse or the dog was feeling.

That’s what you want to do in your story. You have to find a way to reach into your readers’ emotion, tug at the soul, and carry them into the world you created. Do that, and you change people. Do that, and you’ll have a winner on your hands.