Blogger: Mary Keeley
Lately, I’ve been impressed by the abundant fodder available for inspirational stories. Have you been following the weather-related effects on day-to-day life these past weeks? The wildfires in the Colorado Springs area. A major storm that passed through the Chicago area across Indiana to the Mid-Atlantic causing massive destruction and long-term power outages. It reminds me of some circumstances John Steinbeck used to plot Grapes of Wrath.
I’m not referring to the conditions of California’s migrant workers that prompted his political perceptions. What struck a comparison for me is his use of actual current events as backdrop to move his story along.
We live in interesting times. There are advantages to be gained in referring to current, real-life circumstances or using them as themes or settings for a novel:
- Connection with readers. Readers will connect to a novel about an actual occurrence in their lifetime by recalling their own reaction. Automatic tension exists in a real-life event, ready and waiting for you to incorporate. For instance, a story about a family’s struggle to overcome the loss of home, belongings, and possibly recorded memories following the Colorado wildfires evokes the emotional anxiety of forging forward while grieving what’s gone.
- Informative. Most people don’t have time or the inclination to follow-up on recent occurrences. How much do you know about life in the Gulf since Katrina? Would you rather hear statistics or read a story using the catastrophic event as the setting to get the full scoop?
- Historical record. Research is readily available. A story you write that references an actual occurrence, blessed or harsh, has the potential to establish a record of fact and humanity for posterity. American History isn’t as high a priority in public schools as it was a generation ago. Your story can fill the gap.
- A story of redemption. Most important, through fiction, you have the opportunity to weave a redemptive thread through your story in a way that encourages readers to seek the Source of true hope.
Independence Day was two days ago. Our country has weathered much, and the overcoming spirit, by God’s grace, is still alive today. These are my musings as I pondered the many beyond-our-control happenings and imagine the effects on a human level. They can be utilized in almost any genre, including children’s fiction.
Where does your imagination take you when you think about real-life events? What advantages, benefits, and drawbacks do you see in writing about them? What novels have you read that used real life events as a linchpin to the story?