The Learning Experience

The thing about writing is, you always end up changed somehow. After every story, you take a step back and say, “Wow. I learned something.” Because writing is an experience in which you practically live in your mind and pour your heart out onto paper. This process makes you grow as a person and writer; it makes you learn things you never knew before, and it makes you discover things about yourself. Even if it’s as simple as, “Wow, I really hate this premise,” you’ve learned something: you should never try to write a story with that premise again.

Okay just kidding. If, in the future, you go back to that story you thought was horrible and you find you like it, by all means, you’re welcome to rewrite it or whatever. More power to you, because that’s something I’ve never been able to do.

My point is, no matter how good the story turns out, you always learn something. I have found that for every story I write, I always learn something about myself, and I always learn something about God.

My most recent story was about these twelve characters who represent the twelve disciples. They go on a quest to achieve who-knows-what (I hardly even know yet. Maybe I should figure that out.) I think, now that I’ve taken a step back from it, that I can say that what I learned about myself was that I am capable of breaking past the boundaries I set for myself. I wrote this particular story during November for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Going into it I thought that it was downright impossible to write an entire novel in just one month. I thought that there was no way I could stay on top of my daily and weekly word count goals. I had never even attempted it before, and at the time I thought it was extremely ambitious. Impossible. I would never succeed. Furthermore, how was I supposed to write anything when I barely even knew what would happen in the story?

It turned out that all those boundaries I had set up for myself at some point were all false. Last month I learned that I could do what I thought was impossible, and that that statement applied to all areas of writing. I learned that I shouldn’t assume I couldn’t do something until I attempted it.

Now I could go on and on about what I learned about God. And yet, it is harder to put into words. Every time I write a story, it’s like I rediscover the Gospel for the first time. Sometimes I find a new aspect of it that I had never realized before. For example, one of my stories (I wrote this one about a year or two ago) focused on the theme of slavery: we are slaves to sin until we accept what Christ did for us. Then he frees us from our bondage and makes us slaves to Himself. While writing that story, I really explored this theme and was led to specific passages of the Bible that talked about it. Romans 6 is one of my favorites. But no matter what specific theme my story is exploring, I always end up seeing the Gospel in a new light.

Sometimes, this seeing of the Gospel also leads to moments of self-discovery: “There are people in this world who are still in sin’s bondage. Therefore, I MUST find them and show them the truth.” That one story in particular changed my views on everything. It changed my view of the world, it changed my view of God, and it even changed my view of myself. (Coincidentally, it was because of that one story that I realized I wanted to be a writer.)

So, writers are always learning things. I personally love the process of writing and discovery. I always look forward to writing new stories because of all the things I know I’ll be learning. I think the coolest part, though, is everything God teaches me about Himself. I always love seeing the Gospel as if it was my very first time. The Gospel is just one of those stories that never gets old – like those timeless stories I mentioned in my last post. Except the Gospel is the Timeless Story, because it gets woven into many, many countless other stories.

So, if you write, what do you learn from it? How have you grown over the years because of it? I’d love to hear from you!

An Analysis of a Story

Today I’m going to talk about what makes a good story. No, I’m not going to discuss the roles of the protagonist/antagonist; I’m not going to talk about a good plot, setting the stakes, introducing conflict, or what makes a compelling character arc; I’m not going to talk about how to create a truly magical fantasy world. All of these things are valuable to a story and are worth knowing, but today I’m going to talk about something called… well, I don’t actually know what it’s called.

What makes a story stick with a reader?

(Don’t get this confused with what makes a reader stick with a story. Today we’re flipping that and looking at it the other way around.)

What is it about some stories that stick with us forever, while other stories we forget about within a week, even though it was wonderfully written and kept our attention? What common element can be found in all timeless stories, stories that will never be forgotten, ever?

Like The Lord of the Rings. It’s one of my personal favorites, and I think it is definitely classified as a timeless story. In fact, this example works out perfectly, because Sam Gamgee (who is the best character in the entire saga and no you may not argue with me) actually tells us about, in his opinion, what makes the best stories:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something…. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

He said this to Frodo in The Two Towers, and he is completely right on every point he made. And he stumbled across that element that should be in all stories if you want them to stick with the reader forever.

Readers want to see characters who fight until the end, even though it looks bleak and impossible. Even though evil will win for sure. Readers want to see characters fight for what they believe anyway. They want to see characters hold on to what little good is left. And of course, good wins in the end. Because these characters fought, even though they had lots of chances to turn back and give up, even if tragedy struck or the darkness ruled, the characters fought and they won.

Readers want to see the timeless truths that are written on their hearts. Everyone, regardless of their religion or worldview, knows instinctively about the constant battle between good and evil. Everyone, whether or not they have ever heard the good news of the Gospel, has an internal longing for redemption. Redemption from anything that holds them captive. And all the best stories illustrate this.

We are a fallen race. We know we are lost. We long to be redeemed. And because of this universal need that drives us, the great stories stay in our minds. If a story depicts an epic display of selfless love, or a dramatic rescue, it will affect us. If we are Christians, the story will especially resonate with us because we know about the saving grace of God. If we are not Christians, the story will leave us thinking about greater things, things that are beyond us, wonderful things we cannot even begin to imagine. And it will still resonate with us because we know that there must be some truth in it somewhere.

And we know that achieving redemption is never easy. There is always a struggle, always a fight. Usually there is a sacrifice. The Harry Potter series is another wonderful example. Regardless of whether or not it was intended, there are countless redemptive messages within that series. The darkness keeps pressing in, evil is overtaking everything, and yet there is a glimmer of hope. There is still the promise of redemption. And the characters had lots of chances to give up. But they never did. They kept fighting until the end, despite tragedy, death, and the general feeling of hopelessness. And they won.

See, all the good stories have that element! A fall from grace and perfection, the long fight against evil, and finally one savior who redeems them all and defeats the evil. This is the Gospel. Sometimes at the end of the story we even get a little glimpse of the end of the end – where everything will be made right again. In The Return of the King, in the very last chapter, we see this. Frodo sails away to the Grey Havens, which is a place where there is no evil and no pain. That part always makes me cry because it’s just so good.

Whether we realize it or not, the Gospel is written on the hearts of humanity. We know the struggle between good and evil is real, and we know we need a savior. Sadly, many of us do not have a personal relationship with the one true Savior: Jesus Christ. And yet, these stories still resonate with us. And maybe, one of them will strike a chord within us and leave us wanting more – and maybe we’ll be led to the Savior.

If you take any great story – any story that has stuck with you from the first time you’ve read it – and you analyze it, I guarantee you will find a story of redemption.

I’ve shared my favorite stories with you, but what are some of yours? Which stories have stuck with you? What was it about them that drew you in so much? I’d love to hear from you!

My Crazy Writing Life

Hello. My name is Talia Prewette, and this is my writing blog. That means: One, I’m a crazy author. (All you fellow crazy authors out there will understand, and the rest of you will just be like, “Huh?”) And two, this blog will mostly be about writing, not just everyday life.

So yeah, there you go. I’m a crazy author who writes crazy stories about crazy characters who live in crazy fantasy worlds and go on crazy time traveling adventures. Okay, I guess they could be described as something other than crazy… but for now that works. Occasionally I may post a short story or two and you can decide for yourself.

All writers, regardless of whether or not they are crazy, have a reason they write. Maybe they’re taking a writing class for school. Maybe they’re very interested in a certain subject – like high tea traditions of Great Britain, or the string theory – and so they write about them. For many writers, the reason they write is because they are driven to. They are driven by a deep passion inside of them to put words onto paper to create something beautiful.

This is why I write. God has given me a passion for it. A passion to put the words in my head onto paper and create something beautiful out of it. A passion to create stories. But God has given me another passion that runs even deeper than my passion to write. This passion, this desire, is burning inside of me like a fire. I am called to spread the Gospel.

At the end of Matthew 28, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (ESV) This is the Great Commission. (If you’ve never read the story, check it out. God is the ultimate Author, after all, and He has written – and is still writing – the greatest story of all time.)

So, because of this calling God has placed on my life, I write. All of my stories – whether they are just short stories or full novels – point to God. They are pictures of the Gospel. Take The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It is an allegory. It gives us a picture of the Gospel. It shows us how God gave us salvation. So do my stories. I am called to spread the truth of the Gospel, and I do it through writing.

My purpose of this blog is to let people know about me and why I write. I’ll blog about the writing life and about God; maybe occasionally I’ll give my two cents of writing advice; I may share what God shows me through the things I write; and maybe, sometime in the future I’ll even post a few short stories. Or chapters of a novel. I hope to be able to post every few days, but I can’t say for sure whether that’s even possible yet.

Thanks so much for checking out my writing blog! All you writers out there: why do you write? What kinds of things do you write? I’d love to hear from you!