The Effective Author: Dare to Write the Stories of Cruelty and Kindness
© 2016 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved.
If you love to write but are still casting about for your niche, there are untapped goldmines of stories that need to be told. Two of these rich sources are the stories of cruelty and the stories of expansive kindness. They are the stories that horrify and the stories that restore the heart. As a fiction writer, you can use these stories for the full context of a novel, or you can weave elements into the characters or action. Your format could be short stories, historic fiction novellas or novels, even romance novels. As a nonfiction writer, you can pen essays, news articles, exposés, biographies of key players, and narrative nonfiction. Of course, every writer can begin with blogging, experimenting with ways to bring these stories to life. Ultimately, either fiction or nonfiction works can be turned into screenplays and movies.
So where to begin? The human capacity for cruelty is extreme: think Nazi Holocaust. It is so difficult to tell these stories, but they must be told. And an individual’s story is sometimes more devastating than the collective statistics. For example, I know a rabbi whose aunt was visibly pregnant in 1942 Poland; a Nazi officer jumped on her abdomen until he killed the baby. The story is burned on my heart. Quentin Tarantino’s character-driven movie, Inglourious Basterds (his spelling, not mine), shows the horrors of a few individuals’ interactions with Nazis, then offers a completely original and satisfying new ending for the war. Tarantino wrote a story that included raw cruelty but also had redemptive elements.
The movie, Woman in Gold, is based on a real family’s experience. It portrays the sharp slide into the new normal in a city where Nazis were beginning to take control. We see a woman doctor, highly respected and successful one day, forced the next day to scrub graffiti off a sidewalk with acid. Her crime: she was Jewish. This film offers both cruelty, and for a few of the characters, redemption.
Award-winning author Marcia Fine has written several historically based novels about the Jewish experience, from the Inquisition forward. These books are impossible to put down, and the characters are unforgettable. Human cruelty and warm hearts exist side by side. In the nonfiction telling of this era’s stories, a recent article from Israel offers an example of clean exposé writing. It reveals a story of cruelty to women in Poland, at the hands of crowds. Magnificent examples of straight nonfiction narrative from the same period include Elie Wiesel’s memoir of the concentration camps, Night, in both short and long versions. These stories must be told. Today, stories of ISIS/ISIL aggression would also make great subjects.
Throughout human history, there have also been chapters of great generosity and kindness. In the Biblical story of Joseph, he is sold into slavery by his brothers. Yet years later, he rises to control Egypt’s food supply and is able to save his family. That one would make a great novel or movie. Looking again at the World War II era, many took great risks to save others from war and suffering. In England, kind upcountry strangers took in the children of London Brits, so the children would not be killed in urban bombings. Mystery authors have used this time as a backdrop to weave intrigue, mayhem, and resolution; they told the story through fiction. Some of these are now PBS movies. The accounts of these children and their families could also be told in a collection of short stories, or in retrospective where-are-they-now articles.
In 1940s Poland, a Nazi party member owned factories, and he was able to save thousands of Jews by submitting lists of workers he required to the Party. He recruited some of the workers to work for him in order to save them. After 20 years of preparation, this story was brought forth as a blockbuster film, Schindler’s List, by unstoppable star director Steven Spielberg. Spielberg’s film profits went to his Shoah (Holocaust) foundation, which collects personal histories from survivors. The records of this foundation alone would offer fertile inspiration for articles, short stories, composite memoirs, romance novels, and thrillers. The possibilities for sharing stories of kindness are endless.
Did you feel your heart reacting as you read these examples of stories that need to be told? Did your eyes fill as you considered the kindnesses? Are you brave enough to delve into times of cruelty and kindness, to hold the heartspace for them, and to write those stories? Heart-centered literature sells, and these stories need to be told. Are you that writer?
Kebba Buckley Button is a stress management expert and author of the award-winning book, Discover the Secret Energized You, as well as the 2013 book, Peace Within: Your Peaceful Inner Core, Second Edition. Her newest book, Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, is available through her office. Just email SacredMeditation@kebba.com for more info. Like this article? Buy Kebba’s books by clicking the links! Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org. For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group: email@example.com.