“The Power of Hopeful Stories in a Stressful Time”

by K.M. Weiland

A “Helping Writers Become Authors” Blog — March 23, 2020

Weiland challenges writers to consider the moral question: “What is your story putting into the world?”

“Every story changes every person who encounters it,” she suggests. “Their lives will change, for the better or for the worse.” 

Weiland reminds writers that they bear responsibility for providing hopeful stories, especially now that our 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…” 

Of course, we cannot tap the power of hopeful stories unless we ourselves are hopeful. Weiland contends that those of us who share stories need to commit “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?

Weiland does not suggest that we gloss over “the anxiety, fear, loneliness, despair, and uncertainty of our lives,” but our stories need to be “more than the catharsis of our own difficult feelings.” We may need to “shine a light on the sins that need purging” and teach about injustices, but we need to “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.”

“It is not enough to diagnose humanity’s illnesses. We must find ways to rise above them. “Let’s start by looking at the stars,” she says, “and then, as storytellers, let us point to the sky so others may look too.”

Weiland suggests five types of stories “that have the potential to create positive change in a positive way.”

1) Stories of Goodheartedness vs. Contempt

We are a people fluent in sarcasm, parody and satire. Those have their place, but the scales can tip so heavily into contempt that they topple over. 

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

In this time, we need “a little extra goodheartedness.” We need the inspiration of people “who triumph out of the deep goodness of their hearts–who teach us kindness, generosity, cheerfulness, and even self-sacrifice.”

2) Stories of Faith vs. Cynicism

Cynicism is prevalent in our time. We hear people say, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Even if this notion is entertaining or seems realistic, it is not 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 on the lives of others. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Weiland expresses her 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.”

“People don’t need help being cynical. They do need help keeping faith–in themselves, in each other, and in something bigger.” With our stories, she says, we have the opportunity to give them that gift.

3) Stories of Substance vs. Shallowness

Substantial stories are not reserved for classic writers of genius. They can be “found in all kinds of surprising places.” 

Many things “grant substance to a story and raise it out of pointlessness or meaninglessness,” and two of the most important are transformation and truth.  Don’t tell a story just for entertainment–our own or anyone else’s. Tell it “from the depths of your heart and your experiences, in search of transformative truth.”

4) Stories of Brightness vs. Darkness

Weiland admits that she enjoys “dark fiction” but it now is ‘in’ and has become pervasive. A story needs to do more than take the reader “all the way down to the bottom of the pit of despair.” It also needs to throw a rope. J.R.R. Tolkien, in his The Lord of the Rings trilogy exemplifies “the power of stories that seek the light.” Sam Gangee reminds his companion Frodo: “There’s some good in this world…and it’s worth fighting for.”

5) Stories of Hope vs. Despair

Writers feel a need to ‘tell things like they are’ and that is one of the reasons for the current abundance of darkly realistic stories. Weliand writes: “…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.” 

“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.” 

Weiland exhorts her readers not to underestimate the impact of what they do and who they are. “To write stories that put something good into the world….this is courage.”

“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 to find the courage to create, the hope that changes lives, and the love that makes it all worthwhile.”