The Trinity of a Story

A story is always autobiographical.

Tolkein, Lewis, Hemmingway —  they know of the wielding of a sword, saving the kingdom, strength and honor.   

Christie, Grisham, King — they live to solve a mystery, conquer the enemies, find redemption. 

Dickens, Angelou, Kingsolver — they understand injustice, endurance, grief. 

When we are drawn to someone’s story, it is because it speaks to the trinity in all of us – our physical senses, our personal souls, our Godly spirit.  A story writer unearths experiences and emotions in a world parallel to actuality.  She helps us remember, imagine, hope.

A story heightens our senses.  We can see the gnarled and wrinkled fingers of the homeless man in the city.  We hear thundering hooves of a wild band of horses.  We smell the decay of autumn leaves. 

A story reveals our souls.  We despair because of our own regrets of unrequited love.  We identify with the cunning intuition of the detective.  We celebrate the courage of the victor.

A story awakens our spirit.  We delight in serendipity.  We yearn for redemption.  We pray for a miracle.

When I write a story, my senses, soul and spirit must all be engaged.  I must remember the sting of saltwater on my scraped knee and the hard sweetness of the lollipop from the old Japanese service station owner.  I must remember the folly of my sarcastic remarks to Sister Mary Frances and the surprising joy of holding Marco for the first time.  I must remember how my family survived the stigma of public housing and how I felt when I knew, deep down, that God loves me.

A story is a trinity of words – a beginning, a middle, and an end – that should, for a little while, speak to the trinity within others.

3 thoughts on “The Trinity of a Story

  1. Very insightful, Berna, and I agree completely. What rings most true in the best writing is what the author has lived through.
    That is what I, as a reader, want: to be impacted on all levels of my being.
    And yet, often that is not the case. The world is awash in story that speaks only to the physical senses or to the soul. It is pedestrian and good only for escapism–or worse. And too often, Christian fiction claims to speak to our “Godly spirit,” as you put it, but uses a hammer instead of a feather; it is heavy-handed, overemphasizing doctrine or evangelism to the exclusion of realism. Sometimes, life IS horror (Stephen King knows this).
    What a challenge it is to write and effectively touch all three aspects–senses, soul, and spirit!

    • I totally agree. All writers can get too heavy handed in one of the three areas. I have to discipline myself on the physical senses – as you have pointed out with my manuscript. I make too many leaps into the soul part, then all of a sudden I get spiritual. I need to use my five senses in my writing (which is what I’m practicing).
      In fact, as I was telling Richard about the draft of this post yesterday, I stopped midway and said, “That’s what Mark is talking about with my book!” So now I have a better idea of what I need to do.
      By the way, I really like King because, at their best, his stories let us conquer and learn a life lesson in the process. My favorite are Talisman (with Straub), Rose Madden and Insomnia. I also like the Gunslinger series. I have most of his books, but I think he’s been a bit off-balanced in the last couple of years.

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