The Power of Story

3 comments Posted on September 7, 2012

I’m a firm believer that reading good fiction can increase our compassion for people, especially going through experiences we haven’t been through ourselves. Our hearts can be touched by things taking place in the story and we find ourselves wanting to reach out to the real people around us. Maybe to encourage them, or perhaps express our concern in some tangible way.

Recently at church, a number of military veterans in wheelchairs visited. Some were Vietnam vets, others from the Korean War or World War II. After the service, my wife Cindi said, “You know, I found myself really caring about and praying for those vets on the front row today. I think about vets a lot more now because of Aaron and Billy Ames.” And then it dawned on her. Aaron and Billy are characters from my novel, The Reunion, which just released.

That’s the power of story.

When fictional characters go through challenges we can all relate to, we can be swept up into their lives. They become like real people we care about. Sometimes through reading what they go through we’ll pick up valuable insights about how we might do things differently in our own marriages and family lives. Or, just as importantly, we’ll see in some of the consequences they face things we should stop doing in our own lives before it’s too late.

In short, some great ‘non-fiction fruit’ can come from reading good fiction.

Dan Walsh is an award-winning author of several books, including The Reunion (Revell, Sept. 2012) and is writing a new fiction series with Dr. Gary Smalley that releases next year. Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he’s busy researching and writing his next novel.


  • 09/07/2012
    Donna Collins Tinsley said:

    Dan, I can’t wait to read your new book! I’m posting but if it is too long, just delete it:)

    “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers is the book I go back to as a fiction book that moves me in a non-fiction way. But how could a book written about a child who was abandoned, sold into prostitution, abused severely, escaped eventually but because she was so embittered by her past could not accept love, be considered a book that made a difference to me as a writer? It is because of this book that I took my first venture into writing fiction. “Redeeming Love” shows how the pain of life can be overcome by love.

    Loosely based on the book of Hosea in the Bible, in “Redeeming Love” we find the most wonderful example of every woman’s “dream man.” Michael Hosea is a gorgeous, godly man that falls in love with the beautiful prostitute, Angel, at first glimpse of her. The love and care he gives to her even when she spurns his love makes every reader wish she had this perfect man by her side.

    Perhaps the reason I so identify with this novel is because I believe even the angels that watch over children daily must look on in horror at some of the things that happen to little ones, because of the depravity that is in the hearts of men. I myself sometimes wondered if I had been born under a dark cloud of a curse. A curse that took my innocence away as a child threatened me as a teenager and is still seeking to destroy the spirit that is within me as a woman.

    My first stepfather beat my Mom and brothers regularly but had other plans for me. When he ended up in prison I lived with guilt for years thinking it was because of me my brothers and sister had no father, my Mom, no husband. As so often it happens to those who have been sexually abused as children, I married young; by age fifteen I was pregnant by someone eight years older than I. Being a great reader of fairy tales as a young girl, I was sure I was going to live “happily ever after.” Can you imagine my horror, when I realized several years later, my Prince Charming was a pedophile? The only thing worse that being sexually abused yourself is to find out your husband is abusing your child, his own flesh and blood!

    I was given this novel to read by a friend who knew I was going through hard times. Once started it was difficult to put the book down, as you find yourself in another world, different, yet intriguing. You feel as if you become one of the characters. Angel, though bitter and defiant showed me the pain a prostitute goes through and the hurt she is trying to cover up. Michael Hosea showed me how to love in a way that it didn’t matter if that love was returned in the manner I wanted. I have learned to be a more compassionate person because of reading this book. I have probably read it about eight times.

    It has inspired me to take a small piece of fiction, “Daytona Streets” and work it into a novel. I have my own “redeeming love” story of my oldest daughter who used to roam the streets of Daytona, addicted to drugs, trying to cover the pain of innocence being stolen from her. She is over four years sober now and I’m hoping that redeeming love will continue to cover the pain that we all go through at times in life.

    Donna Collins Tinsley

  • 09/07/2012
    Dan Walsh said:

    Donna, that’s an amazing story. Clearly, you can relate to Francine River’s book, which I think will become a classic (some already consider it to be one). Thanks so much for sharing.


  • 09/07/2012
    Mary Hawkins said:

    This is something I believe every Christian writer should “talk” to the Lord about. Good, page-turning “Story” is essential but what does HE want me to focus on showing? And I continue to pray with each book it can be used by Him for whoever He wants it to- even if just one person.
    I’ve been challenged and blessed so many, many times over the years by “seeing” issues in the lives of people in different ways through Christian fiction. The first that came to mind was when I was a child and a book “The Open Door” about what helped and did not help a girl my age confined to bed for 12 months. Some well-meaning women from her church put heavy burdens unnecessarily on her by being judgemental and not knowing all the facts of her health problem.
    In recent years it is hard to mention just one but “The Forgiving Hour” by Robin Lee Hatcher has been one of the very best books to suggest to people trying to deal with forgiving the unforgiveable.
    Somehow that theme also creeps continually into my own stories!


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