Friday, November 25, 2016

Best of the Archives: True Lies: Writing Stories that Resonate

It's another Friday in Seekerville, which means we're spending the day writing and reading! Comments are closed today, but we hope you'll enjoy revisiting this June 2014 post from Myra Johnson.

Writing fiction is easy, right? We just make stuff up!


For anyone writing either historical or contemporary fiction, I don’t expect any arguments about the necessity of research. We gather information about places, customs, fashions, careers, historical events, and much more, all because we want our stories to reflect the truth about the setting and era we’re writing about.

Even fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative writers can’t entirely escape a certain amount of research. At the very least, they must plan carefully so that the “facts” of their imagined worlds remain consistent and believable.

But today I’m not talking about research or fact-finding. I’m talking about a different kind of truth, the kind that will resonate with your readers long after the story ends.

We’ve talked in Seekerville before about theme and Moral Premise (see links below to a few of those posts). These are the “big truths” your story portrays. As Dr. Stanley Williams states in his book The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success,
“Good stories tell us something that rings true about our experience as human beings.”
This truth is what readers are hungry for, even if they don’t consciously realize it. It’s the truth that gets them in the heart, revealing aspects about themselves, their relationships, or their worldview, possibly in ways they may never have considered.

How do we, as fiction writers, incorporate the kind of truth that resonates?

Three-dimensional characters. By making our characters fully human, not just stereotypical cardboard cutouts, we give our readers someone “real” to connect with. Think about your character’s fears, dreams, mannerisms, or likes and dislikes. For example, Sandra Leesmith’s Skye Larsen in Love’s Refuge dreads the changes coming to her peaceful island in Puget Sound. Resistance to change in something many readers can relate to.

Universal emotions. Lisa Wingate’s novel The Prayer Box resonates on several emotional levels: a mother’s constant worry about her children’s wellbeing; fear of one’s past catching up; yearning for real love; searching for God. Even something as simple as describing a rainy day or the smell of new school supplies can strike a chord of emotional truth in your reader.

Shared experience. In Ruth Logan Herne’s Running on Empty, Anne Kellwyn carries a painful secret that destroyed her marriage. Readers who have experienced anything similar to what Anne went through can easily empathize with her anger, shame, and determination to create a better future.

Challenging beliefs and perspectives. Tamera Alexander’s historical romance To Whisper Her Name explores attitudes in the South following the Civil War, particularly the convictions of one man who was branded a traitor when he chose to fight for the Union. The growth he and the other characters experience can shed light on how each of us responds to cultural pressure.

Difficult choices. In my novel When the Clouds Roll By, Samuel must choose between remaining loyal to a friend or pursuing the woman he’s falling in love with. When there are no simple answers, such as when either choice could hurt someone the character cares about, what core truths will the character draw upon to make important decisions?

Wise mentors. Tina Radcliffe covered this topic in depth. If you missed it, check it out! Mentor characters can illuminate truth by pointing out our central characters’ bad choices or skewed values. Mentors are often the “accountability police” for our stories, guiding the hero or heroine toward the right path.

What other ways do stories reveal truth, whether through the “big picture” or in smaller, more immediate ways? Look for examples in your own writing or from a favorite book or movie.

Read related discussions in the following Seekerville blog posts:

Melanie Dickerson: Theme: How can I use it for a more powerful reading experience?
Theme: How can I use it for a more powerful reading experience? - See more at:
Theme: How can I use it for a more powerful reading experience? - See more at:
Theme: How can I use it for a more powerful reading experience? - See more at:

Stan Williams: Seekerville welcomes Dr. Stanley Williams, "The Moral Premise Guy"

Mona Hodgson: The Truth in Fiction

Missy Tippens: Charting Your Way to a Story--The Moral Premise


If you haven't read Myra's Christmas novella, Designs on Love, you can order it now for Kindle from Amazon or in paperback from most online bookstores.

Ranch foreman Jacob Collins has had designs on Vera Mae Beasley since he first realized the differences between boys and girls. Then Vera left to study fashion design in Philadelphia, and Jacob had all but given up hope of sharing a future with her. Now she's back in Texas, mourning the loss of her family to yellow fever and closing out the family business. Helping Vera heal offers Jacob a second chance at winning her heart, and he's not about to let it slip away.

Note to readers: This story was originally published for Kindle in 2014 as part of the Seekers' Hope for the Holidays historical collection.

About Myra: Award-winning author Myra Johnson writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Myra is a two-time finalist for the prestigious ACFW Carol Awards and winner of Christian Retailing’s Best for historical fiction. Originally from Texas but now residing in the beautiful Carolinas, Myra and her husband love the climate and scenery, but they may never get used to the pulled pork Carolinians call “barbecue”! The Johnsons share their home with two very pampered doggies who don’t always understand the meaning of “Mom’s trying to write.”

Subscribe to Myra's e-news updates!