Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a Contemporary Christian author and the founder of Grace & Faith Author Connection. Check out Staci’s brand new release…
Don’t freak out. It’s not what you think, but I have to this point on earth lived 34 lives. Let me explain. In general, there are two ways to write a novel.
- The first way is to plot everything, to research, outline and plan every plot twist and event from page one to the final page before you ever write the first word.
- The other way is sometimes called Seat of the Pants—meaning you don’t know much about the story, you just start writing and let the book come to life as you write.
I use a lot of both ways, but I tend to think of it as doing what the Holy Spirit wants when He wants it done. Most of the time I start knowing at least a scene or two of what happens. Sometimes all I know is who the characters are, sometimes I know bits and pieces of the story. No matter how they start, each and every story has stretched me and forced me to grow. I see these as Holy Spirit lessons in many ways.
The first way is I’ve learned I have to let go of “how I did it last time.” However I did it last time is never how I will do it this time—that much I have learned. This time will always be different. This time will always have its own lesson to teach me.
The second way these stories have taught me is to give me the chance to live many lives—not just this experience I myself call life. In some ways my characters are pieces of me. In some ways I’m pieces of them. When I write, for that time I “become” them. I often take on various characteristics of them as I’m writing their story. I’ve dressed new-age for a time because that’s how one character often dressed. I’ve worn leather wristbands because that’s what a character wore. When I’m in character mode, I listen to the world in a different way. I listen to it the way they would.
I listen for the lessons they need to learn in the way they need to learn it, and in the process, I learn. It’s a cool way to learn because as heart-wrenching as a circumstance in a book is, I have the option of turning off the computer and processing for awhile. In real life, you can’t do that.
Through my characters I have experienced poverty and riches far beyond what I will ever have. I have worried about where my next meal will come from and about how to save a youth center from being closed. I have jumped off the edge of sanity into alcoholism and relived a drug addiction. I have seen the loneliness of getting the dream you thought you wanted but missing the things that are truly important along the way. And with every experience, I have learned in a way I couldn’t have from my own experience.
To date I have completed 17 novels. (I wrote this in 2005. I have now completed 31 novels, so I’ve now “lived” 62 lives!) Since I write from the point of view of the hero and that of the heroine in each book, I guess that means I have now lived 34 lives. This unique life experience—both my life and getting to marinate in others’ souls for a time—has taught me many things about this life that I couldn’t have learned had I only lived my own life experience.
I firmly believe that being able to walk in each of my characters’ shoes for a time has given me knowledge and understanding that I would not have otherwise been privy to gaining in any other way. It has opened my eyes to how a single situation can be interpreted in radically different ways depending on the particular perspective of the individuals involved. Because of this, I now understand that no matter how firmly you believe your experience is definitive, the other person is probably as adamant that their interpretation is the only valid one as well.
This knowledge has saved me on more than one occasion from assuming that because my interpretation of events was X that everyone else’s was too. I am more willing to listen to other perspectives. I am more willing to dig for what’s really going on rather than assuming I know and going on faulty personal interpretation.
It’s a lesson I greatly value, and one I will forever be glad that God allowed me to have. How else could you live 34 lives and not be counted insane? Unless of course you were to read other’s experiences… hmm…. There’s an idea.
Copyright Staci Stallings 2005