Friday, March 28, 2014

What Stories Changed Your Life?

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

There is power in stories. Tremendous power. Whenever I start to forget that, I just think of King David and his court prophet Nathan. King David decided he wanted Bathsheba, as if he didn't have enough wives already. So, in a series of bad choices, he got her. But that included having her husband killed. His choices in this matter remind me of a mob hit. He might as well have told his people to, "Take care of it."

But who was going to call out the king? Um, no one? It's not like people didn't know what he'd done. I'm sure the wives were all talking about it. "Did you see David's new wife?" "Mmm hmm." But no one was brave enough to confront the warrior king who, as a teenager, killed a giant, cut off his head, and paraded through town with that head on a pole.

Yeah, I probably wouldn't have said anything either.


But in a brilliant move, Nathan the prophet gives it a go. And he doesn't say, "Hey, King. What was that with the stealing of the wife and the killing and things?" Instead, he tells the king a story. Now, I'm sure many people told King David stories. There wasn't any TV back then, so entertainment was either storytelling or singing. David probably settled back for an diverting narrative. And Nathan must have been good because David didn't see it coming. He listened to the story of a rich man who killed a poor man's only sheep and served it to his guests for dinner. And when the story angers David and he flies into an outrage and demands to know the name of this horrible person, Nathan says, "You are the man!" (And that wasn't a compliment. It was an accusation.)

Boom. Instant humility. And, yes, another king might have had Nathan killed for that little move. But not David. He knew he'd messed up. We always know. But sometimes we just keep covering our mistakes and hoping that no one notices. And before you know it, we're buried deep.

David was buried deep. And he knew it. And he listened to Nathan and made it right, as best he could.


King George and the Duckie is my favorite
re-telling of David and Bathsheba

Stories have the ability to change lives. Many stories have changed my life. Here are some. I'm putting on my vulnerability hat here, so no judging.

The Nancy Drew series. These books, which were an obsession of my mother in her childhood, became my obsession as a child. In my home with no electricity or running water, I escaped into these books. I loved Nancy and Bess and George. They were my friends. They kept me company for years. And we solved many cases together.

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. This book made the spiritual world real for me. Before I read it, I believed it was real. But after reading this book, I could picture it. And, yes, it's fiction. We don't know this is the way things are. But, man. It sure does make sense. After reading this book I looked at the world in a different way.

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. I grew up in a poor family. I'm a hard worker. So I had a difficult time with homelessness. I just couldn't wrap my brain around how someone gets to that place. In my head I think, "Dude, get a job, negotiate. My dad did. He worked for free rent. He hitchhiked to get groceries. He once pawned his beloved guitar to feed his family. It wasn't easy, but he did it." And then I read John Grisham's The Street Lawyer and I was humbled. People tend to make assumptions based on their own experiences. And my experiences were narrow indeed. I didn't understand how someone could become homeless, so I arrogantly jumped to the conclusion that they were lazy. And maybe some homeless are. But Grisham's book told a different story. It showed how people can get stuck. And the realization that I had been very wrong to make such assumptions not only changed the way I thought about homeless people, it changed the way I thought. Making assumptions wasn't a wise way to live, and I didn't want to make the same mistake again. Well done, Mr. Grisham.

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis. In this final installment of Narnia, the people are sorted. Some get to come into the new Narnia. And some do not---some beloved people do not. The phrase, "It is far bigger inside than it was outside" is said of this new Narnia. (Makes me think of a Tardis.) This was a beautiful and eerie look at heaven. Like many, I had always understood that heaven would be all clouds and golden streets. But the Bible says that there will be a new earth. And The Last Battle showed me that new earth. And it showed me that only those who choose it will enter. Heavy stuff. And very well done.

No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green by Melody Green. This is a true story. Melody Green tells her husband's life story as best she can. Keith Green was a famous musician in the 1970s. And this book changed me. The way Keith lived each day changed me. But what I remember most from this book was how Keith gave up control. He trusted his life and what he held precious to his creator. It never occurred to me to live with such trust before. And as a new mom at the time, this was exactly the story I needed since I was a little bit overprotective of my new child. Just a tiny bit. Okay, so I was a total momma bear and petrified that he was going to be injured in just about every conceivable way.

Love this picture of Keith and Melody.

Tilly by Frank Peretti. This story. Wow. Frank has an incredible imagination. It continually floors me. It had never occurred to me that unborn children might go to heaven. And once I read Tilly, I can't imagine it any other way. This story is absolutely beautiful.

Harry Potter series. I think that, perhaps, the mysteries in these books reminded me of Nancy Drew. But how did the Harry Potter books change me? They opened my mind to the idea of creating an immaculate storyworld complete with flying paper airplanes at the Ministry of Magic and howlers from an angry parent. Having been obsessed with Nancy Drew as a child, I had never considered contemporary fantasy as a genre. The possibilities fascinated me (and still do).

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. After reading this book, I was in awe. I had never before read a book that so captured a character's voice. And I had also never read a book that told an issues-based story in such a clever way. This book has helped thousands of teen girls. And it makes me teary-eyed as I think of the power of Melinda's story helping all those hurting girls. This book set a standard for me as an author.

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore. I loved these books. But it was a simple image that changed me. The image of how angels see human fear as black tar, weighing us down, keeping us from our potential. That will stick with me forever, Shannon. So powerful.

These stories have become part of my life story. But you have your own. What are some stories that changed you? Share one of them in the comments. And remember, your pen (or your fingers at a keyboard) has tremendous power to change lives. Don't ever forget it.

55 comments:

  1. The Anne of Green Gables series. The entire set of books developed my sense of humor and increased my appreciation for irony and satire of society.

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  2. The Misfits by James Howe immediately comes to mind. The characters are so diverse, and I learned so much from that book. This is a recent read, but The Fault in Our Stars also impacted me in a big way, for obvious reasons; do you want to be remembered and have everyone miss you terribly or be forgotten and have everyone you love still be alright? Also, Matilda is a big one for me. I connected really well with her because we both learned to read at a young age and we both love to read. And I don't know if this counts, but something I will always cherish is the Calvin and Hobbes comic book compilations. They taught me to read and I loved the imagination, the whimsy, and the bittersweetness of it all.

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  3. The Main Street series by Ann M. Martin - I am a fantasy girl, but this series showed me that realistic fiction can be fun too.
    The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson - Other than the Alcatraz series(which I love), this is the first book that I read by Sanderson. The magic system is wonderfully unique, the characters are awesome, and the world-building…jaw-dropping. This book gave me even more motivation to take his writing class at BYU when I go to college!
    The Beyonders trilogy by Brandon Mull - Words cannot describe how much I love these books. They gave me so many feels. It has influenced my WIP a ton. Like Rithmatist, the magic system, characters, and world-building were exquisite.
    Oh, look at that. We were only supposed to do one. Oh well, too late now.
    I know this is off topic, but when do you think the finalists from the contest will be announced? This is the first contest I entered and I'm a little(super) anxious. :)

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  4. The Fault in Our Stars changed my life. Oh maaaaaan... I had to rework my worldview after reading that. No other story has moved me so much.

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  5. The Book Thief - I read this for the first time only five months ago. Zusak's unique use of imagery amazed me, as did the unusual character and nature of the narrator. Apart from that, the story itself was touching. I was glad that Zusak portrayed a different side of the German people, one that was not mindlessly loyal to Hitler. The characters and story were real. It helped me to appreciate the terrors of Germany during the time of the Nazis better than I have before.

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  6. Lord of the Rings really opened my mind to the possibilities of fantasy! Your imagination is the limit!

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  7. Sooo many books have changed my life
    Alt Ed, The Narnia series, Harry Potter series, The Fault In Our Stars, Scorpio Races. And The Bible.
    There are more, but those are the ones that have stuck in my head, helped me through hard times, and made me really rethink life in general/

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  8. If we survive by Andrew Klavan. The story was so amazing and it really changed the way I look at life! Made me really appreciate the life God has given me more.

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  9. All the books I've read have changed me at least a little, but the big ones are,
    Narnia series, who wouldn't this series change? It is inspiring, thought-provoking, and the fact that it's an allegory without being annoying is wonderful.

    The Book Thief, this book has reminded me that "I don't believe in types, I believe in people." (Sorry, that quote from Downton Abbey has really been on my mind lately)

    River of Time series, has made me a lot more thankful for even the simple things like, running water, cars, modern medicine, blue-jeans, and the like. How Gabi lives without them is beyond me. ;)

    And of course the Bible, and who can count all the ways that it's helped me. :)

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  10. Brother Andrew, Narnia, Harry Potters, Anne of Green Gables, and, (This is not trying to be ingratiating) The Blood of Kings. Those got me thinking about how we can talk to our God personally.

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    1. And he doesn't even break our windows! LOL

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    2. *groans* Awwww Mrs. Williamson, really? You mean that never happened to you? I was kinda hoping maybe... ;)

      Kidding ;)

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  11. The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia have always been a big part of my life. The Three Cousin Detective Club books were too. I think I read those before I read Nancy Drew, and they're the reason mystery was my favorite genre for a long time. And the DragonKeeper Chronicles and the Door Within Trilogy were what helped me take the dive into Christian Fantasy. And then the Gail Carson Levine fairytale remakes were what got me interested in the whole fairytale remake genre.

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  12. The Outsiders for sure. It's stuck with me and everytime I reread it, it hits me again. The characters just seem so real...

    The Knight and Rogue novels by Hilari Bell have really impacted the way I write characters. Fisk and Michael seem equally realistic and they sound completely different, their voices and the way the view the world both.

    The Bible has for sure impacted me.

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    1. I love The Outsiders! Reread it many times as well...

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    2. The Outsiders had wonderfully real characters.

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  13. Great post, Jill. I've always thought stories have held great power. They've been extremely influential in my life. Probably one that changed me (well the whole series really) was Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis. I'd never liked too many CBA books because all the ones I'd read were bonnets, buggies and moral-at-the-end-of-the-story-and-shove-it-down-your-throat books so I often stayed clear of them. But with his it opened me up to subtly weaving in Christianity, and it introduced me to third person limited. It opened my mind to a deeper kind of writing and changed my perspective on it forever. The whole series and its sequel strengthened my walk with Christ.

    Stori Tori's Blog

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  14. Definately HP. Got me into reading and writing, a choice that is still affecting and shaping my life to this day. Also, reading the Scorpio Races got me back into riding horses again, which although wasn't a permanent decision, it allowed me to spend some time with my favorite horse again before he passed away last summer, which was great. There are probably more, but those stand out the most.

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  15. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis definitely. Lewis really just opened my eyes to soooo many things I'd never even thought about before.
    Emily's Quest by L. M. Montgomery really impacted my life as well. Its probably the book that made me decide I wanted to do something with my love of words and stories.
    The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander were what made me want to write fantasy.

    And I also have a soft spot for King George and the Ducky ;)

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    1. I love the Chronicles of Prydain! Have you read his Westmark trilogy? It's good too, though different.

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  16. Tilllllyyyy. Oh my, yes. Have you listened to the radio production of that. Both the book and the audio make me bawl my eyes out.
    Safely Home is on my list of top five most life changing fictional books.
    Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins is another heavy hitter.
    Under the Same Sky was a random library selection, but it has shaped the way I think about illegal immigrants even though I barely remember the gist of the story.

    No question about it. Stories are powerful stuff.

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  17. The Solitary Tales helped me get through high school and various struggles. It's a powerful series about darkness, light, and a sarcastic teen boy.

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    1. I love those books. He did a wonderful job with deep first person POV.

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  18. Anne of Green Gables series; the way she ages and changes as the series progresses has always encouraged me. The "Pierced By A Sword" trilogy always calms me down when I worry about the future, which is odd, considering they're about the apocalypse.

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  19. Peace Child by Don Richardson, The Wooden Ox by LeAnne Hardy, The Abolitionist by Elisabeth Allen, and The Swipe Series by Evan Angler. For most of my preteen years it was the Millie Keith books. And the book of Jeremiah in the Bible (more than a story - reality) really got me. I agree stories change us, how we look at the world and how we feel about ourselves and others. I can only try to give my own stories that power, too.

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    1. I've read the first Millie Keith book (the adaption) and LOVED it.

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    2. It gets EVEN MORE better later on.

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    3. I always wanted to read those. Never managed to find them, though...

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    4. Yay--someone else listed Millie! :)

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  20. The Heart Mender, by Andy Andrews and really all the books of his I've read. They're really good! And of course, the Bible helps me stand!

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  21. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I LOVED the pioneer spirit, the perseverance, the LOVE, the family and couples. It was just warm and inviting. Not that they didn't have their problems, but they always held to each other and made it through.

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  22. I love The Lord of the Rings and I haven't even started reading the books yet, I've only seen the movies (I have the first book now though. EEEE!). It's a story of friendship and loyalty that I can honestly say I love. And it's a great inspiration to me as a fantasy writer.
    The Chronicles of Narnia was my first real book series. It hooked me up with fantasy and reeled me away in my own imaginings. I love anything allegorical or that has applicability.
    The Gates of Heaven Series By C. S. Larkin always encourages me to write better as her writing is truly poetic.
    There's way more than that, but I think that'll do.

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  23. The Bible. I'm reading Daniel now and enjoy it a lot.

    The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue. Opened up my eyes to how much the world is hurting and how we can help. And how we should answer God's calling no matter how weird it may seem. (Seriously, if you haven't read the trilogy, you should. The books are amazing, as most anything Nancy Rue).

    The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis (Chronicals of Narnia) was really amazing. LOVED the description of the new Narnia and the whole concept.

    I also have tremendously enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables books (it has been a while since I read them, though). Anne has such a delightful imagination and a amazing love for talking. :)

    There probably are more, but I think these are OK for now. :)

    http://teensliveforjesus.blogspot.ru

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  24. 'And remember, your pen (or your fingers at a keyboard) has tremendous power to change lives. Don't ever forget it.' That's what I call inspiring, Jill... Thank you for this post! I think the Chronicle of Narnia have played a huge role in my life. Not only the 'things in the life of a Christian' which Lewis hid in it and from which I could learn a lto, but also the idea of the story itself. Love allegory ;-)

    arendedewit.blogspot.com

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  25. I am influenced by everything I read and see. It shows in my writing. I was watching this detective series when I realized that my book had turned into a real murder mystery. I also found I had been secretly weaving in a detective like thread into another of my projects and it was one of the most enjoyable plot twists ever. It was just like something they do in that show! The TV series Once Upon a Time has also changed my view on what a good antagonist is. In the last three months, my writing has changed dramatically because of Go Teen Writers. I really don't think anything has influenced my writing since I started! Thank you.

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  26. First of all, this post really made me just stop for a while and think. Hard. I took my time coming up with this list because I don't want to give the title "changed my life" easily. But here's what I came up with finally:

    Fiction--

    1. Perfect Glass, by Laura Anderson Kurk because it's about compassion and perseverance, about seeing the beauty and the purpose in the things that happen that are unexpected. It's about orphans and an old lady, both whom most people miss the wonderfulness of.

    2. A Life of Faith Series--Millie Keith (the new version) Millie taught me what letting go means, what being a light
    means and how to do it. She showed me the pain of loving someone who doesn't know the truth, and the joy that comes when they find it. She showed me what family should look like, what a relationship between the oldest child and her parents should look like. Made me want that. And most of all she taught me life is an adventure.

    3. Twice Freed by Patricia St. John made me think about giving up everything for Christ, and forgiveness, and made the New Testament world real in my mind.

    Non-fiction--

    1. Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis...my mom read it to us kids two years ago and it caught my heart. Taught me serving is the best way to spend your life, and love is the only thing to live for. Taught me the most joy can often be found where the most outward trouble lies.

    2. The Narrow Road by Brother Andrew taught me the same thing about joy and showed me life for Christians on the other side of the world. It gave me a disgust for the thing we call the church in America.

    3. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is a little recent to be on this list, but I have to have it anyway because of the sheer number of little bits of wisdom I scribbled on notecards during the 8 weeks I read it for school.

    4. George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol's Orphans by Janet Benge--Mr. Muller fascinated me, especially his notion of trust with finances.

    The thing I realized was, I've had many favorite books over the years, but not all of them influenced me as much as these did. :)

    Again, thank you for the post. I'm going to print this out and bookmark it and everything. :)

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    1. You're welcome, Amanda! I see some powerful books on that list. I love that three of your four nonfiction titles are life stories. We must not forget that our own lives can inspire people!

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  27. Stories that have changed my life... In a way this is a tough question, but in a way it's simple.

    1. House by Ted Dekker really helped me to define what my purpose in life and writing is. To shatter the Darkness. It has wholly affected my life, and influenced the themes of my writing.
    2. Divergent by Veronica Roth showed me that just one choice CAN really turn your entire world upside down. It showed me how important it is to ensure that you make the right choice. It also taught me to live with no regrets in my life and to always put others first.
    3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins showed me that in order to change the world, you sometimes have to be willing to sacrifice yourself. It showed me that if any one person chooses to be radical, their actions could ignite a revolution, which our day and age desperately needs.
    4. The Circle Series by Ted Dekker has also largely influenced my life and my writing. It's taught me that in order to open your eyes to the Truth you must take a leap of faith, you must die to yourself.

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  28. Ella Enchanted and Fairest by Gail Carson Levine-I have read and reread these books. They are my go-to when I can't sleep :) and I love the way she writes. Like Jill said about the Nancy Drew series, these books are my friends.

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  29. Love Nancy Drew! Some books that have influenced me are

    Lyddie by Katherine Paterson
    Emily of New Moon Series by l m Montgomery
    Twice Freed by Patricia St John
    Witch of Black Birdpond by Elizabeth Speare
    I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
    And the Narnia series

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    1. I'm loving seeing some of my books on others' lists... Twice Freed was amazing. And the Witch of Blackbird Pond is a favorite too. :)

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  30. I've read The Christy Miller Series (Robin Jones Gunn) and I'm reading The Sierra Jensen Series (also Gunn). Both series made me think about both dating, staying pure and things like that.

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    1. Good books, Emma. I'm thinking of reading those to my daughter...

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  31. I loved reading the lists of books that impacted you all. Thanks for sharing!

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  32. The Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games Trilogy, Frozen, fairy tales, Once Upon a Time, Peter Pan, Pollyanna -- to name a few.

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  33. Several come to mind, including the Dragons in Our Midst series and all the following books, Laylie's Daring Quest, and the Christy Miller series. All truly brilliant books.


    Alexa Skrywer
    alexaksrywer.blogspot.com

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  34. The Chronicles of Narnia really opened up two doors for me, a better understanding of spirituality and the realm of fantasy. Well, really the fantasy part is tied with The Hobbit, as I was reading the Narnia books at the same time my mom was reading the The Hobbit to me and my siblings. I have never looked at the world the same ever since.

    Another book is T. Davis Bunn's book, Maestro. I was saved from a young age, and had never really experienced life without a constant reminder of God. Reading that book opened my eyes to what any ministry, particularly music in that book, can do to change lives.

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    1. Reading everyone's posts keeps on bringing back more books to mind! :)

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  35. Zink, Out of My Mind, Firegirl, The One and Only Ivan, and Wonder.

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