“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1
I have in my mind the idea for a novel. It follows me around like a little butterfly, fluttering in and out of my consciousness. In glorious bursts of imagination I see green pastures, rolling hills, and a band of people trekking to a far off place (no, there are sadly no hobbits in my story). It’s the story of Patrick of Ireland and the journey of a group of friends who join up with him to eventually find the peace, love, and joy they’ve been longing for. I envision druids, sacrificial rites of passage, danger and intrigue, along with daring rescues, valiant defiance of evil, lives being transformed, and amazing works of God. It’s a wonderful and ingenious story! I can’t wait to tell everyone!
But when I start writing it down something terrible happens. My characters, who have become my friends and are now part of me, become flat and static. Like paper dolls with rips and tears all over them. In my imagination, they are living and breathing and having wonderful conversations and adventures. But when I try to write out their lives—what they do, how they speak, what they see, how they feel—it falls flat. There’s no life in them. They’re hardly even one dimensional. It’s painful, like taking that little butterfly in my tightly clenched hand, eager to show everyone my beautiful story, then opening it to find a sad little crunched up mess. It is almost unrecognizable. I never thought that writing fiction would be this difficult! It’s given me so much more respect and admiration for good fiction writers.
I stumbled upon a blog about writing and subscribed to it in the hope of finding some encouragement to keep writing on this novel. I didn’t realize exactly why I was having so much trouble but this blog post by Jamie Lee Wallace helped me discover what was happening and comforted me that I’m not alone in this struggle. Many authors struggle with the fear of mangling their story. But she encouraged us to keep at it. At one point she wrote:
“If you have a beautiful story inside you, and you are afraid to commit it to paper or screen because you know to do so will mean maiming or outright killing your vision, remember this: you are the only one who can tell your story. You are the only one who has the vision to see its beauty. Without your sacrifice, the world will never be able to share in that beauty.”
This was encouraging and helpful in regard to writing but it also reminded me of the passage where Jesus said: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23). Jesus used this picture of a grain of wheat to illustrate the effect of His death, that because of His sacrificial and lonely death, He would save those who trust in Him. Sacrifice is often the means that brings about immeasurable beauty and fruitfulness, but it also produces loud echoes of the gospel.
Jesus used stories to convey his messages often. It’s a great venue for teaching and affecting people’s lives. There is something about a parable that helps us remember and understand principles that would otherwise be less memorable (ever read a book that really stuck with you and changed your mind about things?). Stories speak to a deeper part of us. A story can affect our hearts even when we are too stubborn to listen to direct correction. The prophet Nathan used a story to convict David of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 12:1-7). It’s a way to teach, admonish, exhort, and even bring someone into your frame of mind. It’s a useful tool. The Bible itself is The Story from the Master Storyteller.
I believe the novel that’s in my head has value. Patrick’s life was amazing and the story of what God did through him deserves to be told in a winsome and engaging way. The sacrifice that it will take to get my book written will be worth it and will hopefully bear much fruit. So please pray for me!
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:1