I made my instructor cry recently. And that made me happy. No, I’m not a sadist, I’m a writer. When I read her comment it gave me a great deal of satisfaction because I had done my job. I made her feel what the characters were feeling. I made her feel what I had been feeling when I wrote the words. And something changed.
Ted Dekker recently said, “Story is about transformation – the transformation of your characters and your own transformation.” Dekker’s premise is that if you do not change as you write, your characters won’t change and your readers won’t engage in the story enough to be transformed.
In order to be changed we must feel something deeply. That has happened to me a number of times when I’ve read an exceptional book. When I read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo for an assignment at university many years ago, I carried the book around with me for weeks after I’d finished it. That book made me cry and I kept re-reading it, in different versions, even the unabridged, and in its original French. Then I went to every performance of it on stage that I could get to. I watched every film ever produced.
Because it made me cry but I didn’t know why.
Oh yes, there was the rawness of the poverty and the infuriating injustice and the kindness of a priest that stirred things in me, but I had read about that in other books. There were strong characters and vivid setting, but that was nothing new either.
It wasn’t until I had an encounter with Jesus that I understood why Les Miserables had such a powerful affect on me. It was because the book was such a clear and brilliant story of mercy and grace. It was because, in the depths of my soul, that was what I was longing for, what I needed, and when I read those words and let that story seep in I recognized it, even before I knew what it was. And I cried.
All good story is about transformation. All good story is about mercy and grace. These are not the sappy clips we see on Facebook, not the tear-jerker Budweiser commercials, but deep, lasting works that make a difference in the lives of the reader.
They make us cry. They change us. They transform us. Because the Holy Spirit uses the words to do His work. Les Miserables was one of the stepping stones God used to bring me home to Him.
I believe He will use our words to do the same if we are willing to be changed and transformed ourselves as we write. The process is not easy. There will be tears involved. But the end result is worth it all.
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You (Job 42:5).
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