I love to hear, read and tell good stories

Published 7:39 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

More than 304,000 books were published in the United States in 2013, according to the International Publishers’ Association. That’s the most recent data I found.

Over 6,000 fewer titles were published than the previous year, however. Sales from those books totaled higher than $19.5 billion at the time the research was published — roughly the same as the previous year.

Thousands of people are writing books, and thousands more are buying them.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

As a writer, I have started (and not finished) more projects than I can possibly remember. I have mapped out plots and outlines and written much of a couple of novels, but they languish on my computer.

I’ve self-published a couple of stories on my blog and I’ve co-written two non-fiction books with my psychologist/pastor ex-father-in-law. One is a Christian denominational doctrine study and the other is a psychological-theological inquiry into what it means to know the mind of God.

I know. They sound fascinating.

Several people have them — a few even shelled out money.

If you have a book published, you want it to sell. It helps pay for your opportunity to write another. But you also want people to read it, to enjoy it and learn from it. I don’t even care if people disagree with it.

I enjoy writing.

When I was finishing my master’s degree, I had a class in which I had to write at least six long research papers. I asked my professor if I could write in a style that was less academic and more readable, like something I’d want to read on my own time.

He said he was willing to let me do it on one paper and see how it went.

I wrote the paper and distributed copies to all the people in the seminar class to review, including one person and the professor who each specifically wrote papers to argue against my points.

Hardly anyone agreed with me on the issues the paper presented. But the main student reviewer said, “Brett, I didn’t agree with you on much in this paper, but I really enjoyed reading it.”

He said he liked my style of writing and looked forward to reading more from me in the class. The other students and — most importantly — the professor agreed. I got to keep writing my papers in my own style.

I did not care one bit that no one agreed with me. That wasn’t the point of the class or the paper. We were practicing, in part, how to intelligently defend our arguments.

I was just thrilled that they enjoyed my writing style.

I am fascinated with good storytelling. My father could take any situation, I think, and spin a tale that was captivating, funny and poignant. He could have told us kids stories about the stock market at bedtime and we’d have been thrilled.

I love to try to do the same.

Part of the allure of storytelling for me is not knowing what’s coming next, just trying to figure it out as I go.

My kids and I have fun playing a game in which each person says one sentence to add to what another person has already said, weaving a story unique to the moment. We can’t think too long about it, and we don’t write it down. It’s usually done on long car rides.

The spontaneity of the telling keeps it lively and has made for some rather hilarious tales.

But these types of storytelling are not the absolute best. The best stories, according to C. S. Lewis, are ones that involve a main character to whom you can relate, who faces a crisis that he or she cannot overcome alone. The protagonist needs a savior.

The stories may involve intrigue and mystery, horror or science-fiction, drama, comedy or any other element and fall flat if there is no crisis to be overcome and no savior to do it. You can even have a flawed protagonist and be successful with the story.

But when the main character faces that insurmountable hill and the savior comes in to redeem we are given a picture of the one ultimate True Story — of a Savior who dies and rises again to save us.

Now that’s a story worth reading, worth telling.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.