Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Stories We Pray For

A manila folder in my filing cabinet has the word ideas written at the top in black ink. Into this folder I put book ideas for a time when I am between books and I don’t know what to write. Many are written on Post-It notes. Others are hand written on larger sheets of paper. Some have even been typed on the computer and printed. Some are written on the little sheets of paper from a notepad I keep in my nightstand. Some of the best ideas come from that strange land between awake and asleep. Some of these ideas are complete scenes, while other are just a single sentence.

On one of the smaller white pieces of paper in that folder, blue ink spells out a story idea involving Tina’s parents reorganizing their church in an attempt to make it more appealing to the people in the community. That idea started back when I was working on How to Become a Bible Character and I was certain that I wanted to include it in the series. I might have written it next, but I had fallen in love with the idea of doing a book based on the life of Hosea from the man’s perspective. But then I had this bright idea that I should write a book outside the scope of the series, so I could send it out to agents. All this time, I was still working on the idea involving Tina’s parents, knowing that I would need a good outline when the time came. But I was also struggling with the idea. Though I had a completed outline and scenes playing out in my head, I had an idea for a science fiction story that I fell in love with. Tina’s parents got brushed aside once more and I told myself that I would come back to them—after I finished this next project. I needed them, or so I thought, but then I had the idea for my current work in progress. I liked it so much, I lost interest in the science fiction story and the story fit so easily into the series. The idea never made it into that manila folder and the story about Tina’s parents is gone, probably never to be told.

Some stories grab an author by the shirttails and refuse to let go. Something special happens. Scenes begin to flow from the fingertips and onto the computer screen. And they aren’t just ordinary scenes. They’re the emotionally charged scenes that bring tears to the author’s eyes, either from sadness or joy. They are the scenes that cause an author to fear the dark shadows and shiver in fear. It is then that the author dares to think that if he can describe the scene well enough then he will elicit the same response from his readers. Those are the kinds of stories we pray we can write.