Hello friends! I’m excited to share a very special guest post by my dear friend E.G. Bella today. If you haven’t checked out her blog before, go do it now! She has so much wisdom, encouragement, and insight to share, and I always come away from her blog posts refreshed and inspired. Today she’s sharing five different ways stories can impact our lives, a topic very dear to my heart as a writer. If you enjoy this as much as I did (as I’m sure you will!), be sure to leave her a comment below to let her know! And make sure to check out the guest post I wrote, 5 Keys to Creating Soul-Deep Characters, on her blog as well.
I’ve always loved stories.
Some of my earliest memories are of my parents reading to me, and I spent many happy hours immersing myself in the worlds from those stories. I imagined myself befriending the characters, defeating the villains, and exploring the towns and countries. I imagined being so brave or witty or smart. I imagined living a life so exciting and so inspiring that someone would write a story about it.
No matter the genre or length, I practically inhaled stories while I was growing up. And with each new character, world, or plotline, I learned. I grew. I discovered how other people thought and felt and experienced things.
That’s still one of the biggest reasons I’m so fond of stories today. For their impact. I believe stories are powerful and have the potential to make a huge difference in how we live our lives. The lessons they teach, the examples of people we get to watch, and the choices they make all press into our hearts.
And if done well, a story can continue to positively impact our lives long after we turn the last page.
As a fiction author, that’s always been one of my highest goals—to write and share stories that are remembered and that make a real, positive difference in readers’ lives. But how can we do that? Here are a few of the ways I believe stories can impact our day-to-day routines.
Stories can help us:
Be grateful and appreciate our blessings
This is one of the easiest ones, I think. Obviously, the specifics depend on the genre and individual story, but most stories center around a main character (or few) struggling to overcome various obstacles and challenges in their lives. And because good stories rely on conflicts to hold our interest, chances are that the main characters in those stories will have to persevere through more—or at least different—challenges than we ourselves have faced.
Which is a good opportunity to be grateful. For the family and/or friends we have, for the opportunities we’re blessed with, for the home or possessions or education we’ve been granted…I think no matter the book, we can always find something to be grateful for, something the characters in the story don’t have. And those things can also remind us to appreciate the blessings that others in the real world often go without.
Empathize with others
This ties into one of the biggest things I believe we can learn from stories. In books we see all kinds of people represented. Some characters may be a lot like us, some could be a little like us, and some may be near opposites! But each and every one of them can teach us something about real people who are similar. Through watching a character (a well-developed one, of course) go about their life and fight to overcome the obstacles, we can start to understand who they are and what they might be thinking.
Which has bled into real life for me. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from fiction is that everyone has a story. Every person on Earth is unique and complex and has a story worth learning about. No one is purely good or bad, and everyone has their own unique personality; a combination of their dreams, fears, aspirations, favorites, and so much more.
Sometimes we may meet someone who reminds us of a character from a book, and that can prompt us to remember that there’s more to them than it seems. Or, it might work like it tends to for me, and just help us treat everyone with proper love and respect.
Know God better
This might seem strange, but it’s certainly been the case for me. There have been many books over the years that have broadened my view and deepened my relationship with God. Obviously Christian fiction and allegorical stories have done this, teaching me and helping me grow in my knowledge and my faith. But I also don’t believe it’s only Christian fiction that’s capable of this.
Even stories that don’t explicitly mention God or anything Christian can help us know God better. As long as there are powerful truths, moving themes, and honest portrayals of humanity in the stories, I believe we can all learn lessons about God and the way He works in our world. That’s one reason I’m equally supportive of Christians who write explicitly Christian fiction and Christians who don’t but still write stories full of truth and uncompromising morals and themes. I believe God can and does use both.
Have you ever put down a book and felt newly inspired and energized to take on some challenge you’ve been facing? Some hardship? Some difficult conversation, overwhelming pile of schoolwork, or painful task? I have. Sometimes it’s a drastic burst of motivation, and other times it’s as subtle as a change of mood when I’m feeling kind of depressed or lonely. Stories have the power to affect our daily activities.
Assuming the story is well-done (as is assumed in any of these cases, really), it’s hard not to be inspired by a protagonist who refuses to give up, no matter what’s thrown in his path. It’s difficult to ignore the bright faith and consistent loyalty of the ally who won’t abandon his pals, no matter what they say or do to him. And it’d be a shame to ignore the mentor who won’t stop trying to bring out the best in his student, no matter how much they struggle or doubt themselves. If they can do it, can’t we?
See our surroundings in new ways
Stories change our perspectives. As I’ve mentioned in the points above, well-written and meaningful stories can affect the way we see our blessings, the people around us, God and His plans, and even our struggles. So far, I’ve yet to find an area of my life that stories haven’t touched. My speech, my conduct, my thoughts, my sense of humor, my faith, my writing…as I’ve read and written stories, my perspectives have grown and changed.
Every character, every plot, every historical setting, every world, every theme—they all introduce us to aspects and events in life that we probably haven’t or couldn’t experience personally. But through story, we get to be impacted by them anyway. And that’s a powerful blessing. With each new story we pick up, we can look forward to—hopefully!—being introduced to something in a way we’ve never experienced before.
Those are five of the ways I believe stories can impact our daily lives. I don’t expect to ever lose the deep love I have for stories, or to stop learning from them—and I definitely pray I never do. There’s just too much beauty and meaning to be found through them to ignore.
Which is one huge reason why it’s important for storytellers who are devoted to truth and meaning to keep telling stories. If that’s you, then let me encourage you today. What you write matters. What you write has an impact on others, so make that impact a good one. Make your stories ones that others will remember for years upon years to come, even after they can’t recall specific characters or sentences.
And whether you consider yourself a storyteller or not (though I believe we all are to some extent), please don’t forget to encourage and support the people around you who are. It’s not easy to tell truthful—fiction or nonfiction—stories, and we need all the support we can get. Just as it’s been since creation, stories of all varieties will continue to circulate. We want to always encourage the telling of stories that will ultimately leave others better, in some way or another, than when they started.
In my experience, there are few things more rewarding.
Have stories ever impacted your life in the ways Bella mentioned above? If so, which ones? What are some other ways stories have impacted your life?