The Story We Bring to the Story

With all the discussion about the craft of fiction and the need to write a great story, there is one thing missing in the equation. The one thing that is the secret to great fiction. And it is the one thing the writer cannot control.

That one thing is the story the reader brings with them to their reading experience. As a reader, I have the life I have lived, the people I’ve met, the books I’ve read, and the places I’ve been that I bring with me into the world your novel has created. This makes the reading of every story unique. No two people can read the same story the same way. This is why one person’s favorite book is another’s thrift-store giveaway.

In the memoir The End of Your Life Book Club, author Will Schwable writes about the books he read with his mom during the last years of her life. In his introduction, he wrote something profound:

We all have a lot more to read than we can read and a lot more to do than we can do. Still, one of the things I learned from Mom is this: Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying. I will never be able to read my mother’s favorite books without thinking of her—and when I pass them on and recommend them, I’ll know that some of what made her goes with them; that some of my mother will live on in those readers, readers who may be inspired to love the way she loved and do their own version of what she did in the world.

This is the secret to the greatest novels of all time. They were written so my story, the essence of who I am, merged with that story and became something new. Something unique. Something inexplicable. A new story. And then became a part of who I am and a part of what I bring to the next story I read.

That’s the story I want to read. Can you write it? I can’t wait to read it.

12 Responses to The Story We Bring to the Story

  1. Terri Robinson June 7, 2021 at 5:16 am #

    Wow. This is so inspiring. It has sparked some new lines of thought. Thank you!

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 7, 2021 at 6:31 am #

    In a way it’s kinda funny
    what is happening to me,
    bad times daily in the dunny,
    yesterday I wrecked a knee,
    tumours growing in my neck
    and the mirror’s not my friend,
    but what the hey and what the heck,
    I’ll have fun until the end
    for I’ve learned a thing or two
    through this long and painful fall,
    that happy’s really what you do,
    not a state of mind at all,
    and if you’d like to come along,
    you can help me sing that song!

  3. Kay DiBianca June 7, 2021 at 7:31 am #

    What a wonderful perspective on writing. As an author, I’ve often told friends that I want my readers to think, to pause and consider. I know each reader comes to the story from a different place and not all will be inspired. But providing the reader with an experience that changes them is a worthy goal I would like to live up to.

    Bookmarking this page.

  4. Frank June 7, 2021 at 9:27 am #

    I find your post is true with the non fiction I read. Our take away is what lives on in our mind and hearts. Great reads have a way of making lasting impressions.

  5. Lois Keffer June 7, 2021 at 9:39 am #

    Marvelous post, Steve. Thank you!

  6. Bryan Mitchell June 7, 2021 at 2:00 pm #

    I see this too. In Bible study group discussions even when I’m certain I KNOW it as much as it can be known, I’m often humbled and amazed by what others reveal.

  7. Janet Ann Collins June 7, 2021 at 3:07 pm #

    Beautiful post!
    I’ve never been a best selling author and probably won’t ever be, but I’ve been blessed to learn a few times that my writing made a big difference in the lives of readers, and that makes it worthwhile to keep writing.

  8. Grace Wisthoff June 8, 2021 at 4:34 am #

    I love this. It speaks to our share in the numinous. God made us this way and we forget the mystery in the face of daily distractions. Yes, story is more than we think!

  9. Kristen Joy Wilks June 8, 2021 at 7:20 am #

    Wow! Yes, my grandfather died early this year and in his last days he listened to so many audio books. Books change us and we can pass that magic on to others!

  10. Roberta Sarver June 8, 2021 at 9:09 am #

    I was encouraged by these thoughts, Steve. Yes, books DO make up who we are and what we think. I’m grateful to have had high quality books come across my pathway in years past, and still today.

  11. Wendy June 8, 2021 at 11:53 am #

    Beautiful, profound, and inspiring. Thank you.

  12. Nancy Bailey July 13, 2021 at 4:36 pm #

    This blog stirred up memories. It is true. I’ve written many published articles, but only one novel. It was dedicated to my Mother-in-law. She was my chief encourager. Her health began to fail . . . and God was good. I ‘self-published’ my book, THE VALLEY, before she died. I keep a grandson in mind for my current ‘work in progress. GREAT BLOG.

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