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I love to Tell a Story

March 4, 2017

I Love to Tell a Story

By Sherri Stewart

I love a good story. Having taught for well over thirty years, thousands of teenagers have heard my tales whether they wanted to or not. Indeed, many students have come back and told me the thing they remembered most about my class were the stories (not so much the curriculum).

            We all know a story must have a conflict. If everything goes the way it’s supposed to, you might as well close the book. Think of the perennial first assignment in any English class—write about what you did last summer. How utterly boring! We teachers should ask instead, “Tell about something that went wrong this summer.” Then you have an interesting paper.

Author Steven James taught me a valuable lesson about conflict. He said that every moment of escalating conflict should be followed by the next logical thing. He advised the writer to ask themselves what should logically occur next and then write it. Then follow it with something that is not predictable. Back and forth between logical and unpredictable makes for a great story and is an antidote to writer’s block. It works well for suspense at least.

            One of my favorite stories comes from an obscure book written during the early part of the twentieth century. The author wrote about her life as a sister with a twin who had leukemia.

            The story occurred when the girls were teenagers. The narrator was not a person of faith at the time, although her twin sister was. In those days, nothing could be done for a person who had the disease, and it was only a matter of time before the sick girl was on her deathbed.

As the narrator sat at her twin sister’s side, she made one last request. “You know how we’ve always been close, so close we could finish each other’s sentences and read each other’s thoughts. When you pass to the other side, find a way to come back and tell me what it’s like.”

            Years passed without a word from her deceased sister, and with time, she forgot about her request until one night. It came in the form of a dream—one that she remembered perfectly when she woke up.

In the dream, her sister came to her and said, “Everything our parents told us about heaven is true, but there’s so much more. I can’t wait for you to join me.”

 “If it’s so wonderful, why did it take you eight years to tell me this?”

The deceased sister looked confused. “Eight years? I was just waiting for the song to end.”

Did you predict the ending of this story? I didn’t when I read it the first time. By the way, this wasn’t a book of fiction.

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