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!
10 comments on “Of Relationships, Healing, and Hard Work: In Fiction and Life”
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Kiersti – what a revelation! I’m so grateful to hear you speak about matters that are deeply touching your heart/soul now. This ability to open up and share what’s central in your heart makes me want to read stories from your perspective – I feel I know you better and can trust that you’ll tell me other truths – even through fiction! And God bless the life you and your intended will share together.
Thanks so much, Donna!
I LOVE this post!!!
I look for complexity in a fictional relationship. As writer and RITA winner Carla Laureano said, “if the conflict can be solved with a single discussion, it isn’t worth drawing it out”. I want the characters to really have to dig deep and WORK toward the truth and healing.
Wow, that’s such a good point, Jennifer–I need to remember that quote. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Kiersti, Seems like I’m always working on some relationship and the unique mechanics of each one. I’m so thankful you are on of my friends and critique partners. I’ve never seen that picture! And thank you for helping me out this week by guesting on my blog.
I’m so happy to see how your relationship with the man in your life and developed over the last year.
Isn’t that a cute photo? I was digging through old Mount Hermon photos and found that one–I think I took it at one of the evening general sessions of you three in the pew next to me, the year that we shared the cabin.
And yes, relationships seem to be a never-ending lesson of growing and stretching, don’t they? Thanks for sharing, friend.
Your beautiful words about relationships made me smile. Isn’t it amazing how we get to minister to each other in our relationships? The discomfort we sometimes feel right before the growth spurt is so real; and I love the way you express the conflict in your fiction. So happy to hear about the sweet love in your life! Wishing God’s abundant blessings in this special relationship.
Thank you so much, Sandra! What a blessing your friendship is to me.
I love how you talk about seeing relationships, and even marriage, as a ministry. Kind of an eye-opener for me, but so true. And “discomfort right before the growth spurt”–that’s good. I need to remember that one…for fiction and for life. 🙂 Bless you!
I’m living through a relational season right now that is gritty. Staying-through-the-ups-and-downs is incredibly tough. Shame on me if I thought we could coast through life without any dark moments though. I give them to my characters, and through the process they mature and learn to rely on the Lord’s truths even more. Praying this for myself and for you, Kiersti.
What a sweet season you’re entering. Praising the Lord for the way he’s already blessed you and your future husband, and the amazing work he will do through your life together. 🙂
That’s such a good point, Jenni…we don’t expect our characters to mature without dark moments, so why should we think we can? Except dark moments seem so much more fun in fiction…
Praying for you, friend. And thank you so much for your sweet words of encouragement…what a blessing you are.