WHEN IS THE LAST TIME you saw a movie, read a book, heard a song, or saw a work of nature that changed you? By this, I don’t mean you thought it was good or even great but rather it became a part of you. These are those rare times when the story being told by the author or artist or God became your story. In some mystical but real sense, the story they left in your mind and heart transformed into a unique work that no one else can tell or even fully understand.
Have you ever watched someone with ear buds crammed in tight, lost in some other world as they sing along with their favorite artist? Or a couple sitting watching the moonrise across the waters as they sit on the beach just lost in each other? You are witnessing this magic of becoming the story.
Samuel Johnson said, “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” I understand what he meant. My boyhood adventures with the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift J. were unique. Sure, millions of boys and probably a good many girls read the same books but no one else knows those stories the way I did. Why? Because when I read those books, the story no longer belonged to the writer. I was on that Chinese Junk with Frank and Joe Hardy solving the crime right along with them. Sometimes before them.
This is why readers often approach movies with limited expectations. Who hasn’t gone to see a movie based on a favorite book and come away sure the movie in their mind is far superior to the one they wasted ten bucks on?
Orson Scott Card explains this in the forward to his science fiction classic, Ender’s Game.
The story in my mind is nothing but a hope; the text of the story is the tool I created in order to try to make the hope a reality. The story itself, the true story, is the one that audience members created in their minds … The story of Ender’s Game is not this book, though it has that title emblazoned on it. The story is the one that you and I will construct together in your memory. If the story means anything at all, then when you remember it afterward, think of it, not as something I created, but rather as something that we made together.
I first read Ender’s Game as a young adult but its story had been present with me long before a book by that name existed. My father died a month before I started seventh grade and in so many ways, my life became a bit of Ender Wiggin’s story. Oh, the setting was different and Ender managed to put down his oppressors and outwit his authorizes when more than often I did not. Nevertheless, the stakes were the same. In some many ways, I was a Third just like Ender. You’ll have to read the book or see the movie when it comes out in November to understand.
Nearly twenty years after reading Ender’s Game I crossed paths with The Cure by Athol Dickson. As fiction, the two novels could not be more different: one hard-core science fiction the other a mystical tale of suspense and redemption, one filled with child warriors training to defeat a distant enemy the other a washed out man hoping to salvage what remains of his battered life. But for me, Riley Keep was simply Ender grown up, fighting a different kind of enemy. And like Ender, Riley was me.
Again, Card asks:
Why do we read fiction, anyway? Not to be impressed with somebody’s dazzling language … Most of us read these stories that we know are not “true” because we’re hungry for another truth… Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lives in the real world, already has the possibility of begin about ourselves.
After being somewhat hit and miss with this little piece of the blogging world it finally dawned on me what I want to accomplish here. My hope is that something I write, some question I ask, some story I tell, some issue I raise serves to help you shape your own story. No one can tell it better than you can!
So read a book, listen to some music, watch the sunset, and hear the still small voice of God. Revel in the story all of these are working to create in you and then share it.