The Power of Hopeful Stories in a Stressful Time

What is your story putting into the world?

I mean that question literally. Every story takes up space in the world—and not just on a bookshelf. Every story you read or watch becomes a part of you. It changes you. Your brain physically changes to make space not just for the memories of this story, but for the thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints it has created or evolved.

I say it often: There is no such thing as “just” a story.

Every story changes every person who encounters it. Sometimes those changes are so monumental, we know our lives are forever changed. But even the changes we don’t consciously notice are still an irreversible weft in the growing tapestry of our lives.

Anybody who reads your story (including you) is going to be changed by it. Their brains will change to make space for it. Their lives will change, for the better or for the worse.

So let me ask you again, because I believe it is a question that creators need to be challenged with as often as possible: What is your story putting into the world?

Tapping Our True Responsibility as Authors: The Power of Hopeful Fiction

It seems to me this is an even more pertinent question than ever right now, as the world is challenged and stretched in ways it certainly has never been in our lifetimes. We need to be telling stories that inspire us, stories that make us glad we were the people born to live lives of meaning in such epic times as these, stories that urge us out of bed in the mornings, stories that reach down deep inside our collective unconscious and show us the archetypal and transformative truths of our existence.

This power cannot be conveyed unless authors are committed to understanding and practicing the foundational tenets and techniques of good fiction. (In short, good intentions don’t, of themselves, make good stories). More than that, this power cannot be tapped unless we as authors, artists, and creators are committed to finding transformation in our own lives.

How can we put hope into the world unless first we allow hope in our own hearts? How can we write stories of substance unless we are striving to live substantial lives? How can we write stories that keep faith with our fellow humans and with the larger Truth of our incredible existence unless we dare to leave the false shelter of our own cynicism? How can we try to offer even a spark of light to the world unless we first relinquish our own grip on the shadows?

Every day, I must ask these questions of myself as much as anyone else.

Without question, we do need stories that tell the Truth. Stories that gloss over the anxiety, fear, loneliness, despair, and uncertainty of our lives are stories that lie. But if we, as storytellers, never get past using our fiction for nothing more than the catharsis of our own difficult feelings, then these feelings are likely all we’re putting into the world.

It is not enough to diagnose humanity’s illnesses. We must find ways to rise above them. As Oscar Wilde said with infinite poignancy:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Let’s start by looking at the stars, and then, as storytellers, let us point to the sky so others may look too.

5 Types of Story the World Needs From You Right Now

If you were to take a minute right now I bet you could rattle off at least a dozen popular stories that aren’t putting too much good out there into the world. It’s a self-perpetuating trend. Popular stories get imitated, consciously and unconsciously, and the cycle continues. Just as life influences art, art influences life—and the cycle rolls on. (And who’s going to  benefit from a cycle that keeps telling us life pretty much bites?)

Yes, absolutely shine a light on the sins that need purging. Teach us about injustices. Introduce to us to characters who tell us we’re not alone in our pain. Give us that emotional catharsis we all need. But do it in a way that ultimately makes us grateful to be alive and inspires us with the belief that we can wake up tomorrow and live a life of meaning.

If you want to put something good out there into the world, here are five types of stories you can write right now that have the potential to create positive change in a positive way.

1. Stories of Goodheartedness vs. Contempt

In The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell tells the story of Irish folk hero Niall—the youngest brother who succeeded where his brutish older brothers failed by showing affection to the ugly crone who guarded a well. Campbell closes the story by recognizing the truth that:

…the hero should be endowed with what the troubadours and minnesingers termed the “gentle heart.”

We’re a people fluent in sarcasm, parody, and satire. Nothing inherently wrong with that—as long as the scales aren’t tipping so heavily into contempt that they’re toppling over. Nothing wrong with anti-heroes either. Most of us love Han more than Luke. But… could we have had a story that put so much good into the world without gentle, goodhearted Luke at its center?

LUke Skywalker Tatooine Farm Star Wars

In our entertainment-saturated era, we are all jacked on contempt. It’s the “in” language. And it’s contagious like crazy.

Who among us can’t use a little extra goodheartedness? We take courage from the inspiration of those heroes like Niall who triumph out the deep goodness of their hearts—who teach us kindness, generosity, cheerfulness, and even self-sacrifice. Them’s good vibes right there.

2. Stories of Faith vs. Cynicism

Oy, the cynicism right now. A certain show with the certain unofficial theme of “no good deed goes unpunished” seems an appropriate poster child for the zeitgeist of the decade. Again, however entertaining or even seemingly realistic this idea may be, how can this be a good concept to put out into the world?

We need to believe our struggles and sacrifices to be and do good will be rewarded, if not directly in our own lives, then at least by creating positive impacts in the lives of others. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I have faith that we each have the ability to make  positive impacts, in ways large and small. I especially have faith that authors have the ability to put into the world such stories of power and hope that people’s lives will be changed. Perhaps the changes are as small as a lift in the spirits on a hard day. Even if it’s no bigger, isn’t that a gift of incredible power?

People don’t need help being cynical. They do need help keeping faith—in themselves, in each other, and in something bigger. As a writer, you truly have the opportunity to give them—you, me, us—that gift.

3. Stories of Substance vs. Shallowness

What makes a story “substantial”? I think we hear words like that and immediately think of those really important books that we feel like we probably should read someday but don’t really want to. We think of books written by geniuses, not little ol’ us. But substance is found in all kinds of surprising places—in fluffy romances, in sit-coms, in action flicks, in children’s stories. In fact, Madeleine L’Engle’s famous quote about the complexity of children’s books might as well apply to the surprising power that can be imbued into even the most “fun” kind of entertainment:

You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.

There are many things that grant substance to a story and raise it out of pointlessness or meaninglessness. To me, the most important factors are ones we’ve already mentioned: transformation and truth. In order for your story to check the boxes beside both of those, it isn’t necessary for it to be one of those really important books (although it certainly can be).

Don’t write just for entertainment—yours or anyone else’s. Write honestly, from the depths of your heart and your experiences, in search of transformative truth. It’s all around us every single day, just waiting to be found in ways large and small.

4. Stories of Brightness vs. Darkness

Speaking of L’Engle, I find myself returning to her wisdom a lot these days. Here’s another gem:

A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.

I like dark fiction. I’m talking fiction that takes me all the way down to the bottom of the pit of despair. But it’s gotta throw me a rope too. It’s gotta tell me, as Samwise Gamgee does, that:

There’s some good in this world… and it’s worth fighting for.

Grimdark is so “in” and so pervasive, especially in the fantasy genre, that it’s difficult not to be influenced by it as a writer. But I was reminded in recent weeks of the power—nay, the necessity—of stories that seek the light. I’ve fallen in love with the YouTube channel Like Stories of Old, which offers philosophic essays on popular movies. The entire channel is a phenomenal example of putting good into the world, but this two-parter on Tolkien is perhaps my favorite.

5. Stories of Hope vs. Despair

One the reasons for the pervasiveness of “darkly realistic” stories is that writers feel a need to “tell things like they are.” People need to know the truth about the world—about the politicians’ dark deeds and the underbelly of human suffering. Otherwise, we’ll drift off in a soporific daze and end up in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

But I can’t help but think that we’ve reached a point where we’re perhaps more in danger of forgetting the good things than we are the bad.

We don’t need any reminders to despair. But we do need to be reminded—the more often, the better—to hope. Paulo Coelho wrote:

When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.

Hope is not some namby-pamby good feeling. Hope is difficult. Hope is ferocious. It is a phoenix clawing its way up from the ashes. It is powerful for the very reason that it requires tremendous courage.

We don’t often think of writers as being particularly courageous people. Unless we’re hard-hitting journalists or risking our lives to speak out against oppression, we’re mostly just quiet, ordinary people sitting alone at our desks day in and day out, spinning little tales that amuse us or let us express our feelings. But let us not underestimate what we do and who we are. To write stories that put something good into the world—to write stories of passionate and unrelenting hope—to show up at our desks every day in a facedown with the subtle and slinking forces of despair—this is courage.

Many of you will have extra time on your hands in the weeks and months to come. May I encourage you, as Maxine Hong Kingston encourages me:

In a time of destruction, create something.

Take care of yourselves, so you may take care of your readers. Bring something wonderful into your life today, so you will have something wonderful to pass on into someone else’s life. Choose courage and hope and love, so that every word you write today will help someone else also find the courage to create, the hope that changes lives, and the love that makes it all worthwhile.

Stay safe and healthy, friends.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What do you want your story to put into the world? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes).

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. If just one woman reads about my protagonist, Jane, and says, “I don’t have to be a victim. I can fight and win, but keep my humanity as well,” then I’ll be content.

  2. Chris Boje says

    I loved this post. Thank you.
    Chris Boje

  3. Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to read today.

  4. “One of the reasons for the pervasiveness of ‘darkly realistic’ stories is that writers feel a need to ‘tell things like they are.’…But I can’t help but think that we’ve reached a point where we’re perhaps more in danger of forgetting the good things than we are the bad.”

    This is a very apt description of how I feel about a lot of “darkly realistic” stories. The one writer I like who could probably be considered “darkly realistic” is Flannery O’Connor, and I believe it is because her stories show redemption, or at least the possibility of it. She doesn’t leave you with the cruel and the evil, she shows the way out of it, even if it isn’t as neat or easy as we might like. And that I think is the difference.

  5. Yes, yes, YES! When I first started writing flash fiction, I realized how easy (and fun) it was to write entertaining stories that had a shocking twist ending. I love that, but when the stories began to accumulate and I started bringing them to my critique group, I found myself apologizing for their consistently tragic or negative content. By then the publishing credits were also stacking up and I took a hard look at them as a whole. It was alarming how easily I had slipped down the grimdark path. I vowed to make my body of work reflect my world-view. I still love to explore those stories, but now part of my process is to brainstorm 3-5 positive spins for every negative one and I’m careful to curate my work to reflect my mission as I see it.Thanks for the additional ideas. such an important post—and full of truth. Thanks for the reminder.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I relate to this. I found myself going down a darker corridor in my WIP and realizing that wasn’t something I even agreed with. Makes me think of Jo March. 😉

  6. “Hope is not some namby-pamby good feeling. Hope is difficult. Hope is ferocious. It is a phoenix clawing its way up from the ashes. It is powerful for the very reason that it requires tremendous courage.” THIS.

    • Yes, yes, YES! I hope we see a change in the trend soon. I for one am exhausted by all the “dark realism” in media, especially fantasy! Fantasy is supposed to be an ESCAPE from reality! I’m happy to say that many elements from this list are making their appearances in my WIP from scene to scene, but the one that kind of encapsulates the theme of my story is the idea of good-heartedness vs. contempt. And it’s shown not in a protagonist vs antagonist juxtaposition, because the antagonist has no contempt (or comparatively little)—after all, he is doing what’s right… for him. The juxtaposition comes in the form of the good-hearted protagonist and her contemptuous and fiery main character sister, both of whom are the “good guys.”
      I definitely disagree with the notion that stories with happy endings just aren’t realistic—the real problem comes when writers and readers alike, have lost sight of the fact that “happiness has very little to do with the circumstances of our lives, and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hope you’re safe and healthy!

  7. I’ve already written a story! I had to channel it all into writing something that would give me hope and help my kids feel safe. It’s helping other parents as well.
    https://medium.com/@alifewellwritten/mom-im-afraid-what-do-i-do-4638051a7f95

  8. I am reminded of Cervantes. “and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

  9. Wow. How true. I’m currently involved in a project that deals with sex-trafficking and foster care. What a boost to my creative ambitions.

  10. Let’s put environmental awareness into the world. Too many stories ignore the planet they take place on.

  11. Kelly Larivee says

    Great post, so appropriate for these times. Thank you!

  12. Thank you. This post made me stop and think, and hopefully to write. I once threw away a novel with a strong commercial concept because it was too dark, even if it had been financially rewarding. Now that money is becoming a big concern, creativity can come to the forefront and writers will work more with passion and hope and less with the idea of “what the market is buying”.

  13. Megan Brummer says

    I’m in tears reading this. A perfect, poignant message. Thank you for inspiring us to shine light on hope in all of this ❤️

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks, Megan. It’s a time when tears are appropriate–but so is hope. All the best!

  14. Louis Schlesinger says

    Thank you for the reminder — and for being a stellar example — of why many of us write. Not to minimize our shared distress at this moment, but may we make this endeavor viral.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Empathy is the foundation of successful fiction–and empathy is so strong right now while we’re all in this difficult experience together.

  15. Thank you so much for this post. I really needed to read this today.

  16. Beautiful.

  17. There are indeed many good stories of hope and goodness at the moment. In fact, I’ve started a Facebook group called The Good in Us and would love to hear yours too… https://www.facebook.com/groups/1102963146705949

  18. “Hope is not some namby-pamby good feeling. Hope is difficult. Hope is ferocious. It is a phoenix clawing its way up from the ashes. It is powerful for the very reason that it requires tremendous courage.”

    I have always found it difficult to put my characters in dark places or have them go through terrible ordeals. I want everything to go well for them, but of course that doesn’t make an interesting story. Something to hope for, a need for hope, this not only makes a story interesting, it makes it inspiring. And we all have a need for hope. Thank you for this super inspiring post!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Your comment is a good reminder to me that we can view this challenging time in our history as a deeply interesting and potentially powerful story that *we* get to take part in as the main characters.

  19. Katie, thank you so much for this. In following your wonderful guidebooks, blogs and podcasts I’ve learnt so much about my writing. My protagonist has become much deeper and realistic, and my antagonist more likeable and robust. In preparing a competition entry a couple of months ago I re-read your pieces on tone, and realised that my novel is a tragedy. Irrespective of the moments of humour and optimism, the characters’ stories are tragic. That realisation has made it hard to keep going, and tonight I sat down again to try and write, read the news, felt down, and started scrolling through the lists of films I don’t want to watch on Amazon. Then your email popped up. You have reminded me that there is hope and inspiration in the story. My central tenet that I return to all the time, that the story must tell and the characters must follow, is to “protect the weak”. Thank you so much for reminding me of what I’m trying to do. Even if a lot of what happens is about as cheery as A Song of Ice and Fire, there is hope in the story. Thank you. I’m now off to write.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hear you. There’s certainly a point to seeking happiness and even distraction in our media choices and even our own writing right now. But if we can face it, there’s also a lot of catharsis in more serious stories as well.

  20. Wonderful post! Nothing like an uplifting and inspirational message at times like this. I will be getting back to my writing today. Thanks so much.

  21. Thank you for this inspiring post. It makes me want to get to work on more stories.

    I’d say the stories I write combine the worldview and tone of hardboiled crime stories in a sci-fi/fantasy world. While noir crime fiction (Raymond Chandler, for example) approximates grimdark, with no good or bad guys, hardboiled stories focus on realistic, sometimes gritty, battles to restore justice. Mickey Spillane is a prime example of a hardboiled crime writer.

  22. Thanks for the post! It was a catalyst for several things that have been swirling about my mind about the meaning behind my work and what I’m trying to say. I want my stories to speak of hope and joy.

  23. I have been not able to work on my novel at all recently. When it comes to writing I often get caught up in all of the little details and overwhelmed. The problem is that I criticize every word so much, because I want it to be the best and I am so worried about what people will think about me after reading my story. Your post reminded me of why I love writing, whether it be editing articles since I am co-editor of my high school newspaper or working on my thesis paper or even my novel. For awhile I have lost the real reason of writing my story, to give light to those who read it and to spread hope and love. I really needed this reminder. Sometimes I feel like my writing is pointless and will not make a difference. Thanks to your writing it has reignited my passion and love for writing and goal to make my story impactful and hopefully lift people up when they read it. So thank you! Your posts are always an encouragement to me and have been such a help for me to improve how I write stories. I hope you are doing well in this time and know that your voice has such an impact. Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I absolutely believe that even if the only person who is impacted positively by your writing is *you*, that is still an impact that will affect others in your sphere, and therefore the world. Nothing is ever wasted. 🙂 And you never know how many people beyond just yourself will be directly bettered as well!

  24. I agree so much with everything you’ve said in the post. I’ve been struggling to finish the first draft of my WIP–thought I would be done before this, but the distractions of the current situation have made it hard to get motivated. But I think your wonderful, inspiring words have provided me the extra motivational push I needed. I will return to them often in the days to come. Thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hear you. I’ve been able to keep working on my writing this past week, but I’ve been very lenient with myself. Instead of a couple hours, I’m happy if I’m able to put in thirty minutes.

  25. Ingrid Bouldin says

    Thank you for this beautifully powerful post, Katie. I truly needed to read this today.
    Gotta get, my eyes are leaking for some reason…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thank you, Ingrid. Just seeing your name in my feed is sometimes enough to give me a little lift of encouragement. Hang in there!

  26. Casandra Merritt says

    Thanks for posting those videos. The Lord of the Rings is filled with so many timeless truths!
    In these troubled times, the truth is hard to come by. In all the confusion, it can be hard to tell what’s really going on, and who to trust…but as far as the news goes, don’t. I think everyone should know that regardless of what you believe about the virus, there’s more at stake. Infowars.com is a great place to find what they don’t want you to know. Maybe you’ve already heard of it. If not, trust me, it’s amazing. I hope you’re doing well and…stay safe.

  27. Thank you. I’ve been reading you for years and always been inspired by you. But this post in particular is a light shining bright and fiery.

  28. Usvaldo de Leon says

    I think our stories have an inverse relationship to our times. The darker things get the more light we need in our stories. Ain’t nobody got time for grim dark now! It is time to see people triumph-even thrive – over difficult challenges in our stories. Thank you for reminding us of that.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I agree. I find myself drawn inexorably back to the movies of the 1930s and ’40s right now–because, ironically, they’re some of the most inspiring and comforting.

  29. Katie, this was a WONDERFUL podcast. One of your best. I’m going back to listen again. Thank you.

  30. “People don’t need help being cynical. They do need help keeping faith—in themselves, in each other, and in something bigger. As a writer, you truly have the opportunity to give them—you, me, us—that gift.”
    Wow, do I feel that! One of the reasons I come to your blog frequently.
    Thanks, Katie!

  31. Thank you for your post which I will read properly later. I am getting a lot of articles saying that being at home is a great opportunity to write more. In my situation, I now find myself homeschooling my 3 children whose school closed on 5th March. My husband is a doctor and under extra stress. So I actually I have less time and energy, but trying to stay positive and find a little time to write.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hear you. I’m going to post next week about some of the daily practices I use to help me stay in a writing schedule. I have a feeling this past week has been a difficult for all of us in regards to productivity.

  32. An uplifting post as always – thank you. It will be interesting to see what impact this crisis will have on reading habits both now and in the future. In the meantime, as we are now in lockdown in UK plenty of time on my hands to write!

  33. Cheryl Schleuss says

    Not only do our readers need to feel the hope and be inspired, we as writers need to uplift ourselves, write what we want the world to look like, believe in the power of our stories to change ourselves and others. All of my stories that begin in the shadows end in the light, whether it be the light of the world or a spark the story ignited in my own soul. These are the stories we need. Thank you so much for making us think.

  34. Eric Troyer says

    Great post, Katie. Another way writers can help during this pandemic is to use their writing skills to help encourage people to follow the governmental health mandates and/or to explain why they are important. And, of course, with a tone of hope that we can all get through this if we do our parts.

    Anyone who doesn’t understand why we should follow the government health mandates should watch this excellent 8.5-minute video:

    https://kottke.org/20/03/an-explanation-on-how-coronavirus-damages-your-body?fbclid=IwAR3rjcn-5B_kfhfDK9H1ygTtdgF8_0-_kaC13L0RrCUldCkK5RQ9f4iNjI4

  35. Thank you for this. You’ve inspired me to re-think my WIP. My main characters are too often cynical and despairing, and I think I’ve had enough of that.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I found myself leaning in that direction earlier this year as well. Watching those vids from Like Stories of Old was deeply inspiring.

  36. Awesome, post!

    With me, I want my stories to shine a light and give both believers and even non-believers hope through difficult life situations. That is ultimately my purpose of writing, as well as just telling the truth, even though it might not always be pleasing to people. But I’d rather have someone tell me the harsh truth than tell me a pleasant lie to make me feel good. (Believe me, I get it myself when I go to church, but I’m thankful for it and how it makes me a better person.) Of course, it’s not always hard-hitting, and neither is my writing style. My purpose of writing is certainly not to mock anybody, but to hopefully call people’s attention to the One who can answer or solve all our problems.

    Let’s be honest, when it comes to seeking help, most people put God last on the list, or He’s not even on it. They depend on natural things (money, drugs, etc.) or other people to fill a void, (which I believe He’s reserved in us for himself) instead of looking to Him, whether because they don’t believe He exists or from lack of faith in Him. I don’t expect the whole world to change because it won’t, unfortunately. And I don’t expect to become the next JK Rowling either.

    But perhaps my stories will someday impact somebody. Even if just but one person, it’ll be worth it. I truly believe if everyone was on one accord, lived their lives righteously, loved their neighbors like themselves, and followed God’s word like He requires of us, the world would be in a better condition than what it is now. But this is not the case. We are living in a dark place, and it’s gotten worse since the pandemic outbreak.

    Yes, people need faith and hope, but people also need to make a 360 turn and change for the betterment of themselves. I write my stories to hopefully get potential readers to consider this, and a majority of the time this involves telling the “ugly truth.” It’s unavoidable. Most people automatically become offensive, sweep it under the rug, and don’t want to deal with it, resulting in them remaining stagnant in their handicapping comfort zones. But until we surrender, fight our struggles, and become brave enough to face reality for what it is, we will never change or become better human beings for God, ourselves, and toward others. (Sigh…)

    Sorry, for the super, long response.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      You’re a beautiful person, and I absolutely believe you’re making a positive impact!

  37. Thank you–I’m working on a “dark side” story, but seeking to fill it w/just the right amount of light.

  38. Wonderful post! Believe it or not, I was actually praying the other day about how to write more hopeful stories. Thank you for being a part of the answer!

  39. I’m not a serious author (yet?), just my blog, but in that and other aspects of my life, I do try to lead others higher. This guideline for authors should probably be the first step in our learning, or major goal. Then the ‘details’ of how we can do that and how to do it better will be wanted more intensely.

  40. Leslie Steeves says

    Such an interesting post! My writing tends to have that “goodness/hope” at the end. I always thought that was a weakness in my writing. Your post opened my eyes. Thanks.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Nah, that’s not a weakness, as long as the ending is “proven” by the story that comes before it.

  41. Olga Oliver says

    I needed this Post, Katie! My story recently returned from its first editor saying, rather harshly, “You don’t really have a story, a rewrite is necessary” had me in dark depths. I’ve been working with the thoughts of trashing the story or having another go. Your today’s POST pushed the GO BUTTON. Thank you a million times, a new relief feeling sifted right down from above my head with the words, go, go, go! Your POST will stay with me through this new experience and when this book is published, I’ll send you a copy and thank you again for this miraculous POST.

    My book’s name is: IN TRUTH’S TIME.

    Olga Oliver

  42. David Snyder says

    Hey Katie,

    Great post. Right on target. Helpful to me right now with my WIP. Hey, is there a way you can give a hint on the “no good deed goes unpunished” show? This is an interesting topic to me, thematically, the prevalence of such stuff. Sounds like 50% of Netflix to me. I hardly watch anything anymore, for that reason. It is not so much that it is depressing, it is just that the writing is so flat and bad. Maybe it is just me.
    –David

  43. Thank you for this, Katie. I agree 100% and am thrilled that someone with as large an audience as you is saying it, and saying it in such a truthful and compelling way.

    I write short stories. It’s very hard to find a contemporary short story that doesn’t seem to make a point of being hopeless, or at best, darkly unhopeful. I want my stories to be luminous. Your highlighting the need for hopeful stories encourages me to get back to sending some of mine into the world to find a home where others can read them. I have only one published (online as a runner-up or honorable mention in a contest), and that was several years ago.

    I also need to write some new ones.

    This is my favorite post of yours, hands down. Thank you again.

  44. Also, you mention being drawn to older movies. I am, too. And this might be an especially good time to read or reread some of the even older classics, so many of which are meaningful and inspiring. Tale of Two Cities and Les Miserables are two that come to mind.

  45. When I started writing SF seriously I was consciously rebelling against the cyberpunk and post-apo idea that the future would be ghastly, and nobody would be nice to anyone else, ever.

    So how do you get edge-of-the-seat plotting if everything is going well?

    That’s why I came up with the “Unstable Utopia” idea, a world that is extremely vibrant, and a joy to inhabit, but which has one fatal flaw that could bring it crashing down if things went the wrong way.

    That’s why there has to be a tiny cadre whose task it is to make sure that disaster never happens, and they have to be prepared to go to any lengths and make any sacrifices to achieve it. They also have to be amazing people, even if at times they have feet of clay. Where could I possibly find…?

    “Oh, for heaven’s sake,” said Jane, “I’ll do it.”

    And that’s where the whole idea came from. Jane’s belief in what she is doing is the triumph of faith over cynicism. Of course it means she gets in this sort of situation:

    (Jane) ‘I don’t care what you believe. I’ve seen it work. I’ve been on planets where nobody can remember any sort of war.’ She paused, searching four years of memories. ‘Have you ever been on Canberra?’
    (Arthur- Interrogator) ‘No.’
    ‘They’ve built a city called Savernake there, with mile-high towers joined by a web of bridges. They have little automated cars that run on tracks up there—or you can walk if you prefer. There’s one night I’ll always remember—I’d been out to dinner, with a very good friend, and we were walking back to the Royal Lodge Hotel across the bridge they call the Victoria Skyway. It was warm, and the air was almost still. We stopped, holding each other very close, in the middle of the span so that we could watch the lights of the city. They went on and on, to the horizon, in all directions. The streets, a mile below, were too far away to see individual vehicles—there were only ribbons of light. And that’s when I knew.’
    Arthur’s hand moved slightly, and the orange glow jiggled.
    Jane forced herself to look away, willing her terror to subside. ‘All that effort could so easily have been wasted on fighting one war after another. But because of Arcturian peace, it had gone into creating something really beautiful. And there are eleven million people who live and work there—not one of them has ever seen a weapon used in warfare. I’d had my doubts about what I’d done in joining Space Fleet, but that settled it for ever. I really believe in the Arcturian dream, because I’ve seen it work. And nothing you do to me can change that—It does work, whatever you say.’

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “the cyberpunk and post-apo idea that the future would be ghastly, and nobody would be nice to anyone else, ever.”

      Haha. It’s not funny, really. But it totally made me laugh. 😀

  46. TREVOR VEALE says

    It’s been a long time I commented on your posts, Katie. Not because they aren’t filled with writerly wisdom and interest, but because I’ve been wrestling with my masterpiece (should be in hyphens): a tale of London in the year 2084 when AI and robosourcing–ruthlessly employed by the governing class–have created a “bonfire of jobs” and a discontented populace ripe for revolution. Through the lives of two sisters, a 17-year-old homeless girl and a 25-year-old postdoc mining the brain for nuggets the AI bosses can exploit, the story unfolds in a world of flying cars and robot houseboys for the better-off and housebound holomovie-watching for the masses.

    The theme is the triumph of hope over adversity, so Type 5 in your masterly “5 Types of Story the World Needs” would be fulfilled. An epigraph at the beginning of the story asks: “Are we machines or are we gods?” and a postscript quotes 1 John 4: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” So love in all its irrepressible aspects is a big part of the story, too.

    Thank you for your timely gospel of good-heartedness and for raising the flag of hopeful stories. The tide is turning, and we are slowly but surely leaving the grimdark waters of despair for a more uplifting literary climate, and posts like yours put wind in our sails!

    You’ve probably made me an addict of “Like Stories of Old” now I’ve glimpsed some of its jewels!

  47. A truly beautiful and encouraging article, K.M. Thank you!

  48. Dennis Michael Montgomery says

    I know I’m a week late with my comments, but I have to make them anyway.

    First off, thanks for the links to the two videos.

    I have read the Lord of the Rings at least three times and have always enjoyed it. However I didn’t realize until watching these two videos just how deep this epic is. Thanks for the illumination.

    I hate to say this, but I think as a reader and (sob sob) as a writer I’m a bit shallow. This realization has answered part of my question of why I am having problems finishing my latest story. I sincerely want my story to have meaning, and not be trash, yet I’m unsure of how to go about it.

    • Dennis Michael Montgomery says

      One of things I’m struggling with is not resorting to extreme violence to end the the story. I don’t want to get the reputation of a blood and gore writer. I do not desire to appeal to the baser instincts of the reader.

  49. Kristy Horine says

    Thank you so much. I shared this with the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference group. Hopefully, others will be encouraged by your words of wisdom as well. Blessings!

  50. Elizabeth Houseman says

    Love this episode–thank you for the inspiration!

  51. Thank you for writing about how we have the power to create good into world. It can be easy to forget, in good times and in and. And thank you also for pointing out specific types of stories that can bring hope into the world. It gives us a general frame on which to hang the hopeful message. These are the kind of stories I remember most and the kind I aspire to write. It may even be why I want to write. Thank you for the reminder.

  52. Thank you for your thoughtful writing. I was just introduced to your blog today by a fellow-writer. I also have a blog where I seek to encourage people: Sandra-ramblingrose.blogspot.com. My posts are shorter and my blog is simpler, but the intent is similar. As a child of God, I too want to turn others to the One who gives hope and grace in trying times. Blessings to you as you continue to serve Him.

  53. I’ve had this open in a tab for literally the past month, and I keep coming back to it. Thank you for this — I really needed it.

  54. Robin T. Vale says

    This resonates with me. Years ago when I started on this novel I could see the ending, and it wasn’t a happy one. But as I got to know what was going on in its word and more about what makes the characters tick and why doing these things, the overall ending changed from one of destruction to this dialogue I keep imagining the main pov saying stuff like:

    “We can’t give up out there the Goddess weeps searching for the light and we will bring it to her.”

    “The veil has been ripped off and all I see is the light.”

    Corny? I guess so I think my mind is just playing around with things. sometimes in those quiet moments good stuff will pop up though. ^-^

    Why is my brain skipping all the way to book three when book one isn’t even done yet and book three doesn’t even have a title yet and it’s a vague idea? O.o And there might not even be a book three book one is starting to feel like a stand-alone. 😛

    I keep imaging the once distrustful and hurt Merryn holding hands with Parcival as they watch the sunrise and saying something about hope and a brighter future but can’t quite pin it down yet.

    Or it swings to how she loves her friends when before she [pushed everyone away and… I get way too emotional (?!?) to even be able to write it down.

    I want more bright books with sparkling characters who carry a torch of hope that blankets every character they touch with love, understanding, and courage. So ya, make them please? <3

  55. Wonderful message in all the replies. I have a ‘white horse’ that hangs out with me. He came to visit me while I was talking with my wheelchair bound sister on the phone. The conversation was also abound in a non-happy tone and I wanted to feel some laughs that my sister and I always enjoyed growing up. I told her we needed to take a trip and she said remember, I’m in a wheelchair. At that moment this white horse came right up to me and grinned. I grinned and said to my sister. You won’t believe this but this big white horse just walked up to me and grinned. My sister giggled. Here you go, she said. What will we do with a white horse ,,,so the story begins. You need a white horse also I told her and we’ll take a trip on our horses, let’s go to Mexico. Oh, that too dangerous she said, how would we get the horses across the border … No problem, I said, these horses fly, they have wings and they understand Spanish … .I’ll cease this long reply in a couple of sentences. My sister giggled again and said I’ve gotta get off the phone.

    So, the very next day she called me and to my surprise said, been thinking about these horses. Such a silly idea. Where would I keep my horse? I live in Florida and you live in Texas. Oh, never fear, I said, you have a two acre back yard. Your white horse can live in your backyard and I have plenty of space here . . . I’ll stop here, but this story continues its mind boggling. We’re having so much fun and I can’t wait to finish my super first novel so I can really get into the white horse story. Sometimes I have askance of my sanity, but this ‘white horse’ won’t go away. Every time he appears I get a spurt of something like when a spoon of homemade fresh peach ice cream touches your tongue. I’ve read all these replies to your great post, and this darn white horse is looking at me and switching its tail. As you say above Katie, strange stuff pops up. When we talk, my sister always asks about the horses and giggles while waiting for my answer . . . interesting flights await.
    Olga

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