During 2013, dozens of talented writers are joining me to cheer you on in your storytelling. These guest-writers will share a few helpful words with you right here every Tuesday night, to encourage you as you #TellHisStory. (Come back after midnight Wednesday to link up your God Story by clicking here. You are free to share ANY story that God lays on your heart.)
And now, I’m delighted to introduce you to author Karen Swallow Prior.
I believe in the power of story. I believe in the power of story because well-told stories have shaped my life immeasurably. Naturally, I have wanted to tell the story of those stories. So I wrote Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me. The heart of the book is the story that changed my life more than any other: the nineteenth century French novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
You’ll have to read my book to get the whole story of Madame Bovary’s influence in my life, but here suffice it to say that reading the novel helped me to see the person I was in danger of becoming—and to become the person I needed to be instead.
Telling the story of that story’s role in my life allowed someone else’s story to change, too.
During a book club discussion of Booked at The High Calling, one reader shared that the chapter on Madame Bovary helped her more than any marriage handbook she’d ever read (and she’s read a lot). She surmised that it’s because when she reads self-help books that tell her what she’s doing wrong, she gets defensive. But when she observes the same behavior in a fictional character she can see wrote “with a detachment,” free from the guilt and self-justification that cloud that seeing. “Watching the story unfold, from the outside,” she wrote, “I see clearly; I know how Emma’s story ends…I can read about Emma and say, ‘That’s me’.” That’s the power stories have to change us.
Being reminded of that reminds me that sharing stories isn’t just something I want to do; I have to do it.
Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University. She is a contributing writer for Christianity Today, The Atlantic, and Think Christian and the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press 2012).
Your turn: Quick. Name the first story that comes to mind that had enough power to change you.