Monday, May 7, 2018

The Power of Story, Part II: The Impact of Themes by Annette M. Irby

fanned book on aged cabinet*

Last week, I talked about how story can impact lives. Here’s an example:

Hidden away in the corner of her bedroom, she read a historical novel by a Christian author and found a respite from reality. Reality included odors coming from the heat ducts and cold wind leaking through drafty walls. At least in this room, she could fire up her space heater and find comfort from the frigid living room where winter’s wind snuck in and heating bills taunted.

In the pages of this novel, she found a verse that fit so well into the story and into her life. She’d read books where verses were thrown into the narrative in a preachy way, but not so with this novel. The verse gave both the heroine and the reader hope. These words lit up the page:

I called on the Lord in distress;
The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
Psalm 118:5 NKJV

As the verse came alive, she stopped everything to earnestly pray that God would do the same for her. The story touched her and changed her life, because a few months later, after a journey of trust, she was out of that situation and into a larger space with hope and joy. She’d survived, by God’s grace.

Story can change lives.

As an author, when I sat down to write Liam and Shea’s story (Finding Love on Bainbridge Island, Washington), I knew Liam would be on a journey of choosing forgiveness. His dad abandoned him and his mother when Liam was four years old. Since then, he has spent a lifetime feeling he had to hold a grudge because anything else would mean dishonoring his mother, who stayed. 

A writer must understand her subject matter. So, I pondered (as we writers are wont to do, yes?) the concept of forgiveness. Jesus gave us the truth about forgiveness with this verse:

For if you forgive [others] their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 
But if you do not forgive [others] their trespasses, 
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6: 14, 15 NKJV (with inclusive language)

I’ve pondered this truth all my life. What exactly is Jesus saying here? Then, one day it occurred to me: Jesus came to take away the sins of the world, so believers are definitely forgiven. For Jesus to imply that His once-and-for-all sacrifice wasn’t enough would be untrue. So He’s not saying that we aren’t forgiven, period. But it hit me: what if He’s saying that we won’t experience the full freedom of God’s forgiveness if we don’t forgive others? Then, I looked up the Message paraphrase of this same passage to find this:

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do.
You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance,
without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part,
you cut yourself off from God’s part.
Matthew 6:14, 15 MSG (emphasis added)

Cut ourselves off from freedom?! This is the truth I wanted to portray in my story about Liam and his relationship with his father.
By including deeper story layers, in a natural way, we writers might affect someone’s life. Perhaps a reader also wrestles with what it means to forgive, what it may cost. Without downplaying the sinner’s mistakes, I attempted to portray forgiveness as the key for releasing the captive. If you get a chance to read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this thread (or any others).

Your turn: What types of themes have you seen handled well in novels? What themes have you yourself written about? Have readers ever come back to you and said your work changed their lives? If you could write about any Scripture, which would you choose, and why?


Finding Love on Bainbridge Island
Just released 5/1/18 from Mountain Brook Ink. Kindle Unlimited members can read the first two books in the Washington Island Romance series for free. The Kindle version is also free if you buy the print version.

Neither of them is ready for a relationship, but love may not give them an out.

Jenna-Shea Brown considers herself a broken therapist. Years ago, she witnessed something that caused PTSD. She can’t let her boss or her patients know about her battle. Who would want to trust her to help them, when she can’t help herself? She’s finally able to find a fresh start in her family’s beach cabin, but the renovations aren’t complete. Her parents have hired her ex-boyfriend to finalize them, but his negligence led to her being in the wrong place at the wrong time all those years ago. 

Liam Barrett is trying to prove he’s nothing like his deadbeat dad. He’s working hard, yet still failing. Adrenaline and adventure offer him a diversion, but maybe he can’t escape his genes. He’d like to make things right with Shea, but he’s unsure if she’ll forgive him. Meanwhile, he’s challenged to forgive his father. He’s also worried about Shea and all these episodes she won’t explain. Now that they’re back in close proximity, he’s falling for her again. But can anything heal the past?


Annette M. Irby**

Annette M. Irby has been writing since her teen years when she sat pounding out stories on a vintage typewriter just for fun. Since then, she’s joined Christian writing groups and launched blogs so she could share the joy of writing. She likes to say she’s addicted to color as flowers and seascapes inspire her. In her off hours, she enjoys gardening, photography, and music. She lives with her husband and family in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn more here on her Seriously Write Page.

Links to connect with Annette:
Twitter: @AnnetteMIrby
Facebook Reader Friends Group:

* fanned book photo credit: Pixabay
** Author Photo credit: Sarah Irby at Irby Photos