Wolf Creek Christian Writers Network

  • The Power of Story to Open Eyes

    It has been said that an actor is able to take what is fiction and make it look real. Some preachers can take what is real and make it sound like fiction.

    A Christian writer has the opportunity to take what many think is fiction and write a story that is authentic and real. A well-written story can take the reader into a narration he is not familiar with and confront him with new reality. The story enables the reader to give new thought to a viewpoint he may have dismissed as unbelievable or irrelevant.  A fiction story that is faithful to reality has the power to unlock truth previously unknown by the reader.

    Jesus declared a blessing upon ears that hear and eyes that see. Good writing can bring that blessing to eyes and ears that have been unable to see or hear.

    Perhaps you have never been to India. You have never heard the sounds of congested traffic in the morning when people are rushing to work or in the evening when workers hurry to get home. Horns are blaring without letup. Let me put you in a three-wheel auto rickshaw weaving its way between fast-moving cars. Prosperity has taken thousands of people off buses and taxis and into their own automobiles, compounding the traffic issues. You are on a two-lane road, but when traffic stops at an intersection, there are ten vehicles across. The sides of the rickshaws are open, bringing you close enough to touch the shoulder of the driver next to you. You wonder, “How can these drivers squeeze so close together without tearing off a side-view mirror?” You look the other direction see an emaciated woman carrying a baby. Her hand is only inches away and you wonder if a coin is what she really needs. Guilt pushes your hand into your pocket trying to get something for her before the rickshaw moves on.

    The heavy rains of the monsoon season have brought further destruction to the overburdened streets. Your rickshaw comes almost to a full stop as it negotiates over a newly formed ditch that cuts across the road. You tighten your grip on the side rails as the auto swerves to avoid huge potholes. Traffic slows and bunches even closer together but keeps moving.

    At your destination, you step over the broken curb onto the crowded sidewalk. Your nose wrinkles with the sharp assault of a food stall. A huge pan over a fire sizzles with the savory food the vendor is dipping into bowls. Is it safe to take your meal here? The vendor names his price but you are not sure whether fifty rupees is a fair amount or if he is taking advantage of your uncertainty. Your fingers push the tasty food into your mouth while smearing your cheeks with the sauce. How long will it take to learn to eat properly with your fingers?

    This story introduces you to a new reality. Your adventurous spirit may want to journey to Hyderabad and experience this for yourself. Or this may be an unpleasant experience you want to avoid. Either way, you have new information enlarging your understanding of an unfamiliar society. In your imagination, your ears have heard, your eyes have seen and your nose has smelled. You have changed, if only slightly and for a moment.

    In a similar way, a Christian writer can put the reader into a story that enlarges his sphere of reality. We use words to bring an understanding of the Word, without being preachy or moralistic. The reader chooses whether to accept or reject the world view revealed in the story. He/she is changed, perhaps for more than a moment.

    “Beyond fantasies and wishful thinking, let writers publish stories that let readers experience truth” (Jeremiah 23:28, Frank Ball).

    Richard Gammill
    Wolf Creek Christian Writers Network, President

    Read more about Richard

  • Remarkable Books, Remarkable Writer

         Laura Hillebrand overcame a profound disability when she wrote two best-selling works of non-fiction, both of which became popular movies. Seabiscuit is the story of a record-setting racehorse, the most popular athlete of the late 1930’s. Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic Champion and World War II hero who survived 47 days in a raft on the open sea after his bomber plane was shot down. He then endured the cruelty of a Japanese prison camp. Writers can learn much from Hillebrand herself, who gives us a powerful example of persistent achievement by writing these remarkable books.

         Here are three reasons why I call these books “remarkable.” First, Hillebrand filled both stories with captivating bits of information that resulted from her meticulous, determined research. She went beyond the headlines of her famous subjects to find fascinating story elements that reveal intimate personal details as well as the larger social landscape. We learn that horseracing was the most popular sport in the country throughout those Great Depression days. In 1938, Seabiscuit received more newspaper coverage than President Roosevelt, Hitler, or Mussolini. Reading her narration of several races makes us feel Seabiscuit’s powerful muscles straining between the jockey’s legs when they ignore the risk and charge through the crowded track to take the lead.

         In Unbroken, we agonize with Zamperini day after day, surviving thirst, hunger and heat until his capture by the Japanese. Then we wince repeatedly while reading the vivid descriptions of his torture sessions during his two and a half year imprisonment. Later we thrill to Billy Graham’s message (quoted from a transcription) that changed Zamperini’s life. Neither book is “creative non-fiction,” since Hillebrand authenticated every detail with her exhaustive research (50 pages of footnotes in Unbroken and 42 pages in Seabiscuit).

         The circumstances under which Hillenbrand wrote these books make them even more remarkable. A case of food poisoning in 1987 led to the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome that in turn brought on a condition of vertigo and extreme exhaustion. During the four years (1996 to 2000) she spent researching and writing Seabiscuit, she was confined to her home, and, to conserve her strength, eliminated nearly everything else from her life.

         When she began writing Unbroken, Hillebrand was still under siege by this mysterious disease. Yet she overcame pain and darkness to write a story of courage, recovery, and redemption. During her seven years of working on Unbroken, the affliction subjected her to months-long bouts of tormenting disability. She used all her diminished strength to keep writing. Nothing prevented her from relating a story she had to tell.

         Sales of Hillenbrand’s two books have reached 13 million copies worldwide. That remarkable figure underscores the appeal of compelling stories that are well written.

         Many writers have a best-selling book within them they will produce only when they determine no obstacle will keep them from writing.  A few will put themselves to work on a manuscript that will inspire, inform, and transform lives. An even smaller number will do the impossible and produce a work of art that required a staggering amount of resolve and sacrifice.

    Richard Gammill
    Wolf Creek Christian Writers Network, President

    Read more about Richard