Monday, November 12, 2012
And They Lived...by Guest Blogger Dan Walsh
Thanks again to Tina for inviting back to be with you all again. Always one of my favorite stops on the Internet. Look forward to spending the whole day with you. Now, about the title for my post….
How does the story end? You know what comes next, right? They lived happily ever after. Growing up as a kid in the late 50s and 60s, I was used to stories ending this way. It was the norm. Certainly, every Disney movie did.
All of the family-oriented movies did (and there were plenty of those in the theaters). Almost all the love stories did, too.
It’s one of the reasons people read books, watched TV and went to the movies. To be encouraged and entertained, occasionally inspired. Life was hard. We didn’t want to be reminded just how hard by our storytellers. Okay, sometimes we did. But we could always count on a happy ending. Before that last page turned or the credits rolled up there on the silver screen the guy gets the girl, the runner wins the race, the crime gets solved, the bad guy gets it, the world gets saved.
The message was reinforced: there is always hope for a better tomorrow.
By the end of the 60s, certainly throughout the 70s, things began to change. Under the banner of realism―and, perhaps yielding to the new air of cynicism brought on by the Vietnam War, Watergate and a series of tragic assassinations―it wasn’t uncommon to find books and movies ending sadly. If not sadly, then vaguely. As if the writer’s message was: “Now, you think about that.”
I’m seeing in books and movies, particularly in secular storytelling, a resurgence of this same air of cynicism and commitment to “gritty realism” that we saw back then. In my writing, I try to combat this trend when I can, especially in the way I end my books.
Three Cheers for Happy Endings
I make no apologies. I believe in happy endings.
I said “happy” endings, not sappy (a distinction I heard Allen Arnold make at a conference last year; Allen was the former fiction publisher at Thomas Nelson). I don’t believe all our stories should end with unicorns and rainbows. But I think a lot of what’s out there today is WAY too dark, and the endings often leave us stuck there.
In part, I can understand why. Life is hard and, for many people, it’s been hard a long time. For those who do not know the Lord, the outlook is often bleak. It can even seem hopeless. I think our books need to reflect that to be relevant and connect well with readers.
After all, conflict is the essence of good fiction.
But this is also where I think believers can make a real difference. We have a real message of Hope to offer, not a fiction one. I believe one of the goals of Christian fiction should be to lead people from that dark place to a place of hope.
God’s ways are all about redemption; through Christ he offers us a “narrow way that leads to life.” I’m a firm believer in writing what I call “Romans 8:28 Endings.”
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
I think that’s part of my calling as a Christian fiction writer, to reveal God’s ways through stories that accurately reflect those ways, as we see them taught in the Scriptures. God’s plans for us are filled with hope and even happiness.
That happiness doesn’t come overnight, or all at once. But in time, it does come. It definitely does come. I’m simply suggesting that we keep writing our story until we reach that part, the part where hope is born, where faith in God and His goodness is seen to be a credible alternative to the bleak, often despairing outlook offered by writers who have no such hope.
A Tribute to Vietnam Vets
Like most of my other books my most recent novel, The Reunion, includes a love story but it also offers hope for those needing reconciliation within their families. And it includes a tribute to Vietnam veterans (really, to veterans from every war).
It’s appropriate to end my post on this note, considering today we celebrate Veterans Day. Vietnam Vets, in particular, did not experience a “Happily Ever After” ending to their story. Most came home to an ungrateful nation who treated them terribly, as if they were to blame for this unpopular war. All they did was try to serve their country when called upon to do so. Most didn’t even have a choice; they were drafted (forced) into service.
In The Reunion, we follow the story of Aaron Miller, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, who came home addicted to painkillers and wound up losing everything, including his family. He even spent much of the 70s and 80s on the streets and now works as a handyman in a trailer park. The three men whose lives Aaron saved have not forgotten what he did for them that day. They set out to find him, to finally and properly thank him for what he did, and for the full lives they have enjoyed ever since.
I’ve been amazed at the reaction to this book so far. It received a 4.5 Stars/Top Pick review from RT Books, has been optioned for a movie by a major Hollywood producer and, in two months time, has received 100 customer reviews on Amazon (averaging 4.8 Stars).
Most of the comments I’ve received, not just from these reviews but from countless emails and Facebook messages, pay particular attention to the ending of this story. Obviously, I can’t go into it here, lest I ruin it for some of you. But I think at least part of this reaction comes from the strong sense of hope readers feel when they turn that last page.
That’s on purpose.
That’s what I want my readers to experience when they finish one of my novels. A contented sigh, perhaps the need for some tissues. A fresh appreciation for life, love, their families and with this book, the veterans who’ve put their lives in harm’s way for so many years, so that you and I don’t have to.
How about you? How do you like stories to end? In the books you read and movies you watch? How about in the stories you write?
Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 7 novels, published by Revell and Guideposts, including The Unfinished Gift, Remembering Christmas and The Reunion. For those who haven’t read Dan’s books, reviewers often compare them to Nicholas Sparks and Richard Paul Evans. His latest project is partnering with Gary Smalley on a 4-book fiction series. The first is called, The Dance.
A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years and now writes fulltime. He and his wife Cindi have been married 36 years and have 2 grown children, both married, and 1 grandson. They live in Port Orange, FL. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter, or read his blog. There are buttons to connect to these, as well as preview all his books, on his website at http://danwalshbooks.com.
Dan has sent Seekerville a copy of The Reunion. We'll be giving that away to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.