Breathe Life into the Familiar
It’s an age old story and book publishers are constantly looking for the answer. Readers are constantly looking for this answer. How to you take a familiar story and breathe new life into it? For example, take any common story from the Bible and attempt to tell it in a fresh and innovative way. It’s difficult but not out of the realm of possibility.
This week I read a book which helps in this area called Story, Recapture the Mystery by Steven James, who calls himself the story guy (more about that in a minute). I was fascinated with the cover design on this book. It had a fresh feel with the old fashion library card tucked into a pocket. As a kid, I loved going to the library and checking out books. I spent many summers haunting the local library, carrying out stacks of books, reading them then bringing them back to the library for more books. This cover reminded me of those experiences. Instead of names and dates, the card is filled with key words like harmony, longing, silence, venom, scars and wonder. In the realm of book design, it’s worth taking a look at this cover.
Last month, Steven James and I were on the faculty of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Steven gave one of the keynote addresses and I’m always fascinated to hear him speak. Why? Like many people I know, one on one Steven is reserve and what some might even call shy. Yet he springs to life as a speaker and storyteller. In fact, Steven has a Master’s degree in storytelling.
As I began to read Story, I wondered how he would breathe new life into the familiar Bible stories. From my view, he achieved his purpose and the book was fascinating. Just to give you a taste—and to spur your own writing, I’m going to give you a brief excerpt. Notice what I chose is a commentary about the Christian media. It’s not in the first part of this book but in fact toward the end on page 179 in the chapter on Wonder:
“Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about conferences, seminars, books, and DVDs that will change my life. ‘This (fill in the blank) will change your life! Attend this life-changing (fill in the blank) and you’ll never be the same again! it’ll be life changing!’”
“On the back of one Christian book I recently picked up were three separate quotes by Christian celebrities, all of which promised, ‘This book will change your life!’”
“A hernia will change your life. Swallowing two pounds of Ex-Lax will change your life. Getting bitten by a rabid dog will change your life. So will going bankrupt, joining a cult, or getting a tapeworm. All of these things are very life changing.”
“Change is not always a good thing. What I need isn’t change from one thing to another but transformation from who I am into who I was meant to become. Only when God’s transforming power touches me can I begin to live the simpler, freer, fresher, more creative, more patient, more passionate, more sacrificial, riskier, rawer, more real, more love-driven life God intended for me to have all along.”
“That transformation is what awaits all who will dare to enter the story of God. As Paul wrote, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2).”
That’s a taste of why I enjoyed this book. Also it’s a hint of what we want to do with our writing and our storytelling.
Wow. Very intriguing. Your quotes made me want to read this book. Thanks, Terry.
As the world careens toward postmodernity, it's important we understand the power of story to transform thinking. Steven James seems to understand this.
The comments about "life changing" hype resonated w/me because I'm working on an article to promote a women's conference and I want to stay away from the type of lingo mentioned. I'll use this quote of his to inspire me:
"What I need isn’t change from one thing to another but transformation from who I am into who I was meant to become."
I'll be looking for his book as well.
Thanks for sharing.
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