The Power of the Stories Behind the Stories

Filed under: Reading, Writing

Today’s recommendation for writers is to find some of your favorite books and chase down the stories behind them. But I don’t want you to pick the flavor of the month. You need to pick the books that make you want to be a better writer–possibly even a better person. And I’m not saying that they all have to be emotional, literary powerhouses. It just has to be something that you consider well written and it has an impact on you. It’s about the books you think about long after you’re done reading them.

Next I want you to search the blogosphere to find out the back story of that story. What inspired that writer to grow that particularly twisted chain of thoughts in their head and put them on the page? Learn about when the story first started to incubate in their mind. Find out how long it took them to draft and redraft that manuscript. ¬†Every good story behind the story seems to have it’s own emotional and plot arcs too. In my experience, in the really good books, what happens in the mind, heart and soul of the writer is often just as interesting as the published story. There is power in the stories behind the stories.

Why do I think we should do this? Because it reminds us of why we write and how we write. It grounds us in reality–some books that look like overnight successes have really been twenty years in the making. (Laurie Halse Anderson’s THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY) It helps us see ¬†history as something that needs a voice. Without our words we run the risk of repeating our mistakes. (Ruta Sepetys’ BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY and Khaled Hosseini’s A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS) It shows us that embedded within the action there is deep thought and social consideration. (Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES and Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT) It doesn’t matter how long the book or who is it’s intended audience. (Dr. Suess’ THE LORAX or Anne Frank’s THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK) Someone telling their personal truth resonates.

tell them your story


Our greatest stories have stories and they leave clear and important messages to the tribe of writers that follow behind. Write what speaks to you and tell that story in your own voice. Write without fear or at least without letting the fear rule your choices. Write to serve yourself rather than an audience–if you speak your own truth there will be someone else that will connect with your words. Writers must write to become better writers, but they also must read to become better writers. It is through hard work, personal revelation and honest connection that we grow. It’s time to unleash the power of the stories behind the stories.

Are there stories behind the stories that have had an impact on you? Which ones–you need to share.

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  1. Nine out of ten times I feel like you are writing to me personally. Thanks!

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