The Story in the Story Within the Story

By Gail Gaymer Martin

As authors, awareness comes each time we begin a novel. We bring to the story a reflection of ourselves. This doesn’t mean a memoir or autobiography. It’s far more subtle than that. Our attitudes, values and beliefs come from who we are, our past experiences, family, friends, lifestyle, education, and values. Our writing voice, our characterization and development of plot, though very different from our personal lives, still echoes exaggerated experiences, a merging of characterization from people we know and from ourselves, and those heart things we value.

Sometimes I see blatant examples of me in novels, not always faltering but a bit of who I am. Sometimes I see who I would like to be or who I’m glad I’m not. My faith, questions, doubts, hurts or experiences I’ve witnessed through family and friends become woven into plots. News stories, disasters,and reflections from non-fiction reading can inch their way into the storyline.

Our imagination takes these pieces of our lives and weaves them into a creative work so subtle sometimes we don’t realize it, but think about it. If we hadn’t had that fear or longing, if we had never been in that accident, if we’d never loved a dog, if we’d never been abandoned by someone we loved, our story could be different. The emotion would not be as true nor the need to tell the story.

So within each piece of fiction our storyline includes a smattering of our personal story within it. Most of us realize this, but have you also considered an extension of this idea? What makes our stories even more unique to each reader is that they bring their story into our fiction housing our personal story. They are touched by incidents that remind them of their own fears, their own wants and needs, their own abandonment, their own disaster, and their own family dysfunction.

Agent Steve Laube shared an article on his blog about this additional readers’ story that is added to our novels. I hope you enjoy reading this article about Will Schwable’s book The End of Your Life Book Club in Steve’s blog at

As you write, dig deep to discover those embedded memories that you avoid, those hurtful experiences that seem insignificant now, those conflicts that took you down when you were trying to find yourself, the flaws you face, the family attitudes that affected your life, and the things you value most. Allow them to surface so that your story can be real and healing to readers also scarred by the past, readers who feel alone and hopeless. Digging deep brings truth to light and truth can set you free.


gailmartinMulti-award-winning novelist Gail Gaymer Martin writes Christian fiction for Love Inspired and has written for Barbour Publishing, where she was honored by Heartsong readers as their Favorite Author of 2008. Gail has fifty contracted novels with over three million books in print. She is the author of Writers Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a keynote speaker at churches, libraries and civic organizations and presents workshops at conference across the US. She was named one of the four best novelists in the Detroit area by CBS local news. She lives with her husband in a northwest Detroit suburb. Visit her website at Her latest book, Her Valentine Hero, released in February. She has also had two ebook novellas release recently: True Riches and To Keep Me Warm.

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