Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Unexpecteded Consequences by Andy Scheer

Fiction touches lives. If you suspect otherwise, just visit an archery shop.

An article in the Denver Post this weekend, titled “They're All Aquiver,” reports how teens and pre-teens who've read The Hunger Games and want to be like Katniss Everdeen are thronging to archery stores and ranges.

Whatever Suzanne Collins's purpose in writing these stories, it likely had nothing to do with prompting kids to learn about bows and arrows. But once stories are released to the public, there's no telling the effect they'll have.

I suspect that in 1958 when Ian Fleming was writing Dr. No, he was simply providing a hint of characterization when he had his character ask for a martini "shaken and not stirred." Ever since, as Jerry Lee Lewis sang, there's been a whole lotta shakin' goin' on.

A generation of novelists later, recreational diver Clive Cussler invented a Bond-like character whose adventures would take place in and under the water. Early in the series Cussler had his hero, Dirk Pitt, check his wristwatch. Having a keen eye for specificity, Cussler looked at his own left wrist, then typed that Pitt was wearing an orange-faced Doxa diver's watch. Today if you attend the annual convention of the group that collects Cussler's books, at least half the people are wearing orange-faced Doxas. In an early novel, Pitt gets caught in a rip-tide. Rather than struggle against it, Pitt swims perpendicular to it until he escapes its grasp. In the decades since, the author has gotten multiple letters from readers who got caught in a similar situation, remembered the scene from Pacific Vortex, and swam to safety.

In many of his westerns, Stephen Bly had a character rant about a situation to the hero, whether Stuart Brannon, Tapadera Andrews, or Brady Stoner. Then Brannon (or Andrews or Stoner) would say, “Are you bragging or complaining?” I remember that not just because it's a great line, but also because I often hear it quoted around my family supper table.

If you ask Jerry B. Jenkins, he can tell you lots of stories about the origin of what was envisioned as a single book (that might sell 50,000 copies) but became a multimillion-selling series that thrust him and Tim LaHaye onto the cover of Newsweek. But Norm Rohrer chronicled the most amazing consequences of Left Behind in his nonfiction book These Will Not Be Left Behind, in which he relates the stories of some of the thousands of people who read the books--and had their lives changed eternally.

If you're a writer and a Christian, no doubt that's your deepest desire for your readers. Some aspect of your stories will affect people. You just never know who and how.


Rick Barry said...

Wow, this post definitely hits the bull's eye. The power of suggestion is strong. If Christian authors create admirable characters who love and respect God and value His Word, then that will impress many readers more strongly than a sermon. Thanks for good examples of fiction affecting real life.

Diana said...

Great post Andy. Fiction has influenced my life many times. One stands out though above the rest. In high school, during a devastating personal crisis, I entered the library to lose myself 'in story'. Looking for the thickest book on the shelves, I chose Taylor Caldwell's, 'Dear and Glorious Physician'.
The bible and it's people came alive to me in a way as never before and I think it was then that a desire to become a medical missionary was seeded in me, as well as a voracious appetite for study of the word of God that remains with me today.

Davalyn Spencer said...

Great examples. One of my goals as a writer is to touch people through my characters and their struggles/victories. Jesus excelled at this. For example, what parent doesn't hope to respond like the father of the Prodigal if given the same situation?

Jeanette Levellie said...

Wow, Andy. This makes it worth the work, doesn't it? But of course, Solomon told us so when he said, "life and death are in the power of the tongue," which we know is words.

I saw a young man wearing a shirt a few days ago that said SON of ADAM, and knew he'd read Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.

Diana: I love your story! How sweet of the Holy Spirit to lead you to that one book...

Elizabeth Saunders said...

So true! Your last paragraph is a great reminder - thanks for the inspirations.