Over the past year or so, I’ve realized a lot of my writing—at least my fiction writing—is about healing and relationships. Healing of relationships, or healing through relationships. Relationships that bridge cultural and racial divides, and relationships right within families. Often both.
In my first manuscript, my characters Tse and Caroline begin to find a bridge of healing between their Navajo and Anglo cultures, as well as for the pain of their own pasts, as they build a relationship and learn and grow together.
In my second novel, my protagonist Veronica struggles with brokenness stemming from her dysfunctional childhood—but through building a relationship with an elderly Navajo Code Talker whose story she’s assigned to write, she finds healing for her heart and relationships with her husband, unborn child, and God.
In the story I’m working on right now, I know relational healing will also be needed…between my heroine and her father, my hero and his past, and again, people of different ethnic backgrounds divided by barriers of history and injustice.
Maybe this focus has sprung in my writing because relationships are so central to me. Nothing upsets me more than tension in a treasured relationship. And nothing makes me happier than being in right relationship with people I love, and hanging out with them.
But I also keep realizing just how much work relationships are…and that real, strong relationships don’t happen easily. Oh, I can have a pleasant acquaintance without a whole lot of effort. But whenever I genuinely spend time growing deeper in a relationship, things always get hard at one point or another.
Guess that’s why relationships are such good fodder for stories…conflict.
I’ve come to realize that when I encounter tension in a special relationship—when we have a disagreement or someone gets hurt—it’s actually a sign of growth, that we’ve truly been getting to know each other. As long as we can work through it and come out stronger, it’s a good thing, however painful at the time.
Being “in a relationship”—that peculiar label for romance in our present social environment—long term for the first time this past year, I’ve discovered the thrill and overwhelming joy of coming to know and love a man, and knowing he loves me and for some reason has chosen to be with me out of all the wonderful women in the world.
But I’m also learning anew that it takes work to build real, true, loving relationships. It also means opening yourself up to pain—pain that others cause you, and pain that you cause them. Even if neither of you means to.
I’m grateful for a man who is willing to keep pressing deeper with me, to keep working things through and learning to love and know and listen to each other, so that our relationship keeps getting stronger rather than broken down. And I’m thankful for friends and family who keep doing that with me too.
For it is these real, gritty, staying-through-the-ups-and-downs relationships that make our stories beautiful—in fiction, and in life.
What are some elements you look for in fiction about relationships? What is one thing you’ve learned about the hard work relationships take? Please share!