For writers, there’s nothing quite as thrilling as breathing life and love into our characters and stories.
Our hearts beat for those creative moments when fact meets fiction in bold, new worlds. We’re eager to get words on the page and begin our journey.
From the first moment I envisioned the sleepy, little town of Ruby, Missouri, ideas flowed. The Ozarks and her people are my heritage. The way of life here, unique. Modeling my fictional town after the place I grew up and loved seemed only natural.
I know these hills and hollows. Where better to glean story fodder, witticisms, and character sketches?
Where better to unearth challenges met and hope restored?
My story worlds come alive when I consider not only the story but also how the setting makes me feel. Fictional Ruby, Missouri, my down-to-earth niche, embodies warmth, humor, and nostalgia.
My imaginary world also strikes a poignant chord regarding faults, foibles and second chances. Toss in a little grace and mercy extended, and my stories are the ideal heartfelt, homespun fiction blend.
While writers’ story worlds aren’t without blemish, that’s what endears them to us. Perfect is boring.
Readers want to immerse themselves in worlds that take them away.
We want to believe, too, there are fallible people just like us who strive toward a higher purpose—something beyond our present, imperfect state.
Two decades ago when Jan Karon burst on the scene with her beloved Mitford stories, the world was smitten. Everyone, everywhere, talked about Mitford. The tight-knit, small-town community appealed to those who longed for a simpler way of life, devoid of the worldly chaos so easily accessible elsewhere.
We immersed ourselves in the region, the people and their tales.
From the tiniest details to the more complex matters, Mitford entranced and beckoned. We wanted to visit the fictional village whose heartwarming charm tweaked our emotions and primed our thinking.
This was a world where we could lose ourselves. The world many of us wanted to believe truly existed beyond the spine of a book.
As a reader, Karon’s novels appealed for all these reasons. As a writer, I admired her sharp wit, her down-to-earth style and her clever turn of a phrase. The fact that her work continues to draw fans, both in the general and Christian markets, communicates a strong message.
When story worlds come alive, all bets are off.
Readers are willing to cross preconceived barriers when stories and story worlds resonate. We’re also willing to search for those stories beyond the typical go-to confines. This is one reason Christian/inspirational fiction is changing. Readers’ desires may wax and wane, but one thing’s clear.
Bookstores’ designated sections might influence where we initially peruse, but at the end of the day, we go to those books (wherever the physical location) that spark interest and meet a need.
Yes, concerning books, labels are needed and necessary.
And yet, some genres should consider casting a wider net to reach more readers, thereby meeting twenty-first century needs.
Does that mean compromising our brand’s integrity?
Does it mean devaluing all we hold dear?
I think, though, in today’s fiction we’re remiss if we don’t incorporate threads that reflect today’s issues, concerns, and dilemmas.
That doesn’t mean we use language or situations that would deflect from our message.
It means we weave realistic choices and outcomes into our storylines that make our story worlds believable, endearing, and hopefully, enduring.
In my own heartfelt, homespun story worlds, I want folks to know everyone—with baggage or not—is welcome.
I want readers to have a seat, nibble some pie, and feel a little love as we fellowship together, despite being different.
Because the thing is…
Great stories unite humanity…
Regardless of the real world or the story worlds we create.
We go to those books that spark interest and meet a need. Even if it means doing this.
When story worlds come alive, all bets are off. Here’s why.
Should we cast a wider net to reach additional readers and meet twenty-first century needs?
THOUGHTS YOU MAY ENJOY
How fictional worlds influence a story’s effectiveness. Blending fact with fiction.
When true life inspires our fiction and why those are the most powerful stories.
Why readers don’t want perfect. Playing to our strengths and uniqueness as writers.
As a reader, what’s your ideal story world?
What makes you want to revisit an author?
If you write, what’s the message you most want to communicate to your reader?
So wonderful to have you visit!
Until next time, my friend ~