Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The power of story

by Niki Turner

Whew, I'm squeaking this post in barely under deadline. I'm so far behind after spending the entire month of March in the Scottish Highlands. Not literally, to my verra great sorrow.

photo by Athanasiusvia PhotoRee

I rediscovered Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series just before the end of February. I originally read the first book in 1991, shortly after the birth of my daughter. A spirit-led fast of all fiction, coupled with the births of my three boys between 1992 and 1997, meant I never knew Gabaldon had released more books about Jamie and Claire.

The second book (Dragonfly in Amber) made me cry. Not those tidy little tears you dab away with a tissue, but the racking sob kind with lots of snot. I haven't cried over a book in a very, very long time, because I generally avoid the kinds of stories that induce tears—those involving animals, illness, and the deaths of small children and/or entire families.

As I write this, Voyager (the third book in the series) lies open on my desk at pages 698-699. I've less than 200 pages left in the story, and this post will likely be brief because I want to finish the book tonight.

A good story holds the power to transport me away from my schedule, my stress, my sleep, my social obligations, and so on. I've neglected email, Facebook, my WIP, blog reading, and more for near on a month. Dust creeps stealthily over my furnishings, unanswered messages scream for attention, and the pantry approaches famine-status (at least in the eyes of my houseful of men, for whom food that cannot be eaten straight from the package is not considered edible).

There's such unlimited power contained in story. Power that transcends the language barrier, the generation gap, political differences, culture, religion, and more. Books, whether written on paper or screen, have the power to transform the world through words.

Sometimes I think we who write forget the awesome power we wield. I fear losing the awe of the story under the weight of writing rules and the pressure of becoming published and the desire to find acceptance among other writers.

The scriptures warn us to be cautious before jumping into the role of teacher, "knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment." (James 3:1) James then expounds on his warning with a message about the power of our words. Generally, his discourse is limited to the spoken word, but I believe we must consider the written word as well, both nonfiction AND fiction.

photo by Muffetvia PhotoRee

Do I think this means everything we write has to be "chapter and verse"? No. I merely think we must remind ourselves of the magnitude of power we hold as we spin tales of romance and mystery and history and more ... power to change lives, move hearts, inspire confidence and faith, and encourage acts of love and kindness.

  1. What was the last book you read that made you cry?
  2. In what ways has your life been changed by the power of story?

     Niki Turner writes romantic fiction, Christian non-fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. Her first completed manuscript won second place in the 2009 Touched By Love contest for contemporary category romance.
      Colorado natives, Niki and her husband of 20+ years have four children  (three at home) and are soon-to-be grandparents. In 1998 they planted a church in rural northwestern Colorado. Currently, they share their home with three teenage boys, two black Lab mutts, and Niki’s absurdly spoiled Westie, Archie.

     Niki can be found at In Truer Ink, her personal blog and website, here at Inkwell Inspirations, and at The Pastor’s Wife Speaks.


  1. I know what caused the sobbing.

    the last book I cried when I read?
    Probably, a Breath of Snow and Ashes.
    I think my first 'sobbing book' was Gone with the Wind.

    Diana Gabaldon has her detractors. Certainly she uses profanity, sex and a host of darker subjects (you know, the real life stuff that happens in a fallen world) but wow, the woman can write powerful stuff.

    I actually went to a writer's conference across country, once, because she was speaking. And the second time I met her was at a huge Celtic gathering where she sat and read aloud from her upcoming book.
    Sure, the books are 3inches thick, but her plot twists and the way she winds multiple unforgettable characters through 6-7 books is a gift. Once you know Jamie and Clair you won't forget them.

  2. Well, I didn't finish it yet. *sigh*
    You're right about the detractors. Deb. It's kind of an "eat the hay, spit out the sticks" thing, isn't it? I have the same challenge with Nora Roberts... love the stories, lots of sticks.

  3. For some reason Golden Keyes Parsons books have had a cathartic effect on me and made me cry buckets of tears. I think it is because she is a teacher and minister first, and I sense this anointing in her writing.

  4. Mmm. Cathartic effect of fiction. Now THAT'S a writing goal to aim for! I know exactly what you mean, Dina.

  5. Hmm. Last book that made me cry . . .

    I must think.

    Ignoring non-fiction, I will say The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund. Can't say the exact spot. I do know I cried reading the Author's note at the end when she wrote about the passion John Bunyan and his wife had.

    I generally cry more watching movies or tv shows. We're currently rewatching the new Battlestar Galatica series with some friends. Because I know how the series ends, a scene will occur and I want to bawl.

    Like during the last episode when President Roslin is feelign all awkward while everyone is dancing and having fun. Then Commander Adama shows up. They chat. He gets her to smile. They dance.

    Goes to show even a strong woman needs her man to remind her being strong doesn't make her any less a woman worth protecting and cherishing. So if you haven't watched Battlestar, I've given away the ending. ;-)

  6. Awesome post Niki!

    I love Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series. She's an incredible writer. I listened to the Fiery Cross on CD and haven't yet found the time to get to A Breath of Snow and Ashes.

    Have you gone to her website lately and read and listened to Outlander the Muscial?
    Prepare for goosebumps.

  7. WHAT? Outlander the musical?

    Jilly, you'll love A Breath of Snow and Ashes. The pacing is faster than TFC and a very emotional ride!

    A musical... this I've got to check out.

  8. Gina, I tend to cry more during movies, too. Father-daughter scenes get me every time.
    I haven't seen ANY of the new Battlestar Galactica series. Might just have to look into those!

  9. Thanks, Jillian!
    I'll echo Deb here... A MUSICAL??? Oh my, oh my. I haven't even visited her website yet!

  10. Ah, Niki... It sounds like such a satisfying read. Don't you just love it when a book ( or series) carries you away like that. Sigh....

    I have only been able to read the first book, which was wonderful. Someday, I hope I can read the others.

    It takes a lot for me to cry when reading a book. That's when I know it's a keeper. The most recent book that made my cry was Missy Tippens' new book, A Family for Faith. I'll be reviewing it on Saturday.

  11. I can't believe I forgot to tell you I love the pic of the Scot on the bridge. And in the pic of the open book, it looks like there's a pic of a Westie right behind it. Is that your cute little Archie?

  12. (Sorry for the delayed response time, work was a wee bit stressful today!)

    Suzie, yes, that is my Archie on my desk, it's a picture my oldest son sketched of him a couple years ago! You've got a good eye!

    And I agree... the Scot on the bridge is a keeper picture!

  13. The last book that made me cry was The Help. May I just say that I do not cry prettily. It was messy. But the whole time I kept thinking "I want to write like this!" I'm not there yet. Probably never will be because it's not really my "voice" but what an awesome gift.

  14. Lisa, that's exactly what I think every time I cry over a book, or finish one with a sigh of satisfaction! Dear Lord, please grant me the grace to write that well!

  15. Hmmm...Blogger ate my comment.

    If there's a Westie dog anywhere to be seen, Niki, you can be assured I'll find it. I love them so much. I used to have a Scottie, and I've always wanted to have another one. And a good Scottie really needs a Westie for company, I think.

    I knew it was a sketch and not a photo. It's a darling sketch. Your son must be a very talented artist.

    I hope you're recovered from your day. I know how it is when your day goes sideways.

  16. Suzie! I didn't know you were a fellow Westie fan! I have Westie radar... if there's a Westie on ANYTHING, it's mine.
    There are some very old advertisements for a brand of Scotch whiskey that featured a Scottie dog and a Westie together. I'll have to look them up again.

  17. No fair, Niki - almost every book makes me cry.

    So here's where I tell you about the story that had the most profound effect on me - except I can't remember the title. I was in Junior High and it was the first historical fiction I'd every read. It had 3 effects on me:

    - it gave me a life-long appreciation for historicals

    - the story was about a white girl who'd been captured by the Indians near colonial Williamsburg and from the time I read it, I developed a yearning to visit Williamsburg for myself.

    - the girl in the story met an Indian boy who underwent a bravery challenge without crying. When she asked him why he didn't cry when it obviously hurt, he said because you give power to your enemies by allowing them to see what you're feeling. At the time, I'd been through a childhood I wished I could forget with many tears involved. But after that, I became stoic and tried not to let the world know what I was thinking or feeling. I'm sure the only reason I got through Jr and Snr high as well as I did was because of that knowledge.

    Anita Mae.

  18. Wow, Nikki, LOVE that pic of you on your posts!
    LOVE the layout of your blog! PURPLE!!
    Who did it? Where did you get it? So many questions!
    You are doing an awesome job.
    Okay, crying after a book. I can't remember doing so recently after fiction but sometimes I do when I read my Bible. As a child I cried after reading The Yearling. I think that was the moment I decided I had to be a writer. I wanted people to feel deeply about things the way that book affected me.

  19. Anita, that is an awesome testimony to the power of fiction in our lives. Oh my, can't you just imagine entering heaven and having someone say, "That book you wrote? It changed my life. Thank you."
    OK, I might make myself cry again.

  20. Karla! Hi! Thank you!
    THIS blog is designed by our very own Lisa Richardson, whose graphic arts ability I bow to!
    I must admit I have not read The Yearling. My sobbing childhood horse book was Black Beauty, when Ginger died. I must have been 8 or 9, and I can STILL remember the description. THAT is the power of story!!!

  21. Niki,
    I'm posting a link to this blog over at my place tomorrow.:) You're my Friday Blog Pick again!

  22. Jillian! I'm so blessed! Thank you!


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