When Our Story Worlds Come Alive


For writers, there’s nothing quite as thrilling as breathing life and love into our characters and stories.

Our hearts beat for those creative moments when fact meets fiction in bold new worlds. We’re eager to get words on the page and begin our journey.

From the moment I envisioned the sleepy little town of Ruby, Missouri, ideas flowed. The Ozarks and her people are my heritage. The way of life here, unique. Modeling my fictional town after the place I grew up and loved seemed only natural.

I know these hills and hollows. Where better to glean story fodder, witticisms, and character sketches?

Where better to unearth challenges met and hope restored?

My story worlds come alive when I consider not only the story, but also how the setting makes me feel. Fictional Ruby, Missouri, my down-to-earth little niche, embodies warmth, humor, and nostalgia.

My imaginary world also strikes a poignant chord regarding faults, foibles and second chances. Toss in a little grace and mercy extended, and my stories are the ideal heartfelt, homespun fiction blend.

While writers’ story worlds aren’t without blemish, that’s what endears them to us. Perfect is boring.

Readers want to immerse themselves in worlds that take them away.

We want to believe, too, there are fallible people just like us who strive toward a higher purpose—something beyond our present, imperfect state.

Two decades ago when Jan Karon burst on the scene with her beloved Mitford stories, the world was smitten. Everyone, everywhere, talked about Mitford. The tight-knit, small-town community appealed to those who longed for a simpler way of life, devoid of the worldly chaos so easily accessible elsewhere.

We immersed ourselves in the region, the people and their tales.

From the tiniest details to the more complex matters, Mitford entranced and beckoned. We wanted to visit the fictional village whose heartwarming charm tweaked our emotions and primed our thinking.

This was a world where we could lose ourselves. The world many of us wanted to believe truly existed beyond the spine of a book.

As a reader, Karon’s novels appealed for all these reasons. As a writer, I admired her sharp wit, her down-to-earth style and her clever turn of a phrase. The fact that her work continues to draw fans, both in the general and inspirational markets, communicates a strong message.

When story worlds come alive, all bets are off.

Readers are willing to cross preconceived barriers when stories and story worlds resonate. We’re also willing to search for those stories beyond the typical go-to confines. This is one reason Christian/inspirational fiction is evolving. Readers’ desires may wax and wane, but one thing’s clear.

Bookstores’ designated sections might influence where we initially peruse, but at the end of the day, we go to those books (wherever the physical location) that spark interest and meet a need.

Yes, concerning books, categories are needed and necessary.

And yet, some genres should consider casting a wider net to reach more readers, thereby meeting twenty-first century needs.

Does that mean compromising our brand’s integrity?

Does it mean devaluing all we hold dear?

Absolutely not.

I think, though, in today’s fiction we’re remiss if we don’t incorporate threads that reflect today’s issues, concerns, and dilemmas.

Don’t misunderstand.

That doesn’t mean we use language or situations that would deflect from our message.

It means we weave realistic choices and outcomes into our storylines that make our story worlds believable, endearing, and hopefully, enduring.

In my own heartfelt, homespun story worlds, I want folks to know everyone—with baggage or not—is welcome.

I want readers to have a seat, nibble some pie, and feel a little love as we fellowship together, despite being different.

Because the thing is…

Great stories unite humanity…

Regardless of the real world or the story worlds we create.


Original Image Credit: CCO Creative Commons/Pixabay

Tell us about your story world. What do you find most challenging? Most rewarding?

What makes a story come alive for you?

Do you think a great story has to have a happy/hopeful ending?


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Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. A hopeless romantic at heart, she enjoys penning stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. Her debut novel, the first in a three-book series, releases with Mountain Brook Ink July 2019.

“Cindy” has a degree in psychology and a background in social work. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA.

Besides writing, Cindy enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has a fondness for gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple. She also adores a great cup of coffee and she never met a sticky note she didn’t like.

Cindy loves to connect with friends at: http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com/

She also hangs out here:




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12 thoughts on “When Our Story Worlds Come Alive

  1. “How the setting makes me feel” I love that phrase. Sometimes setting is just a thing we have to figure out to move on with the story and it leaves a void when done that way. Thanks, Cynthia, for a great post on making stories come alive.

    • Setting is such a powerful motivator, isn’t it? For instance, I mentioned to someone since I write “Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction,” I could probably never be interested in stories set in prisons. …Then I remembered one of my favorite heroes … *a-hem* …Paul. His “story world” certainly didn’t have a homespun “feel,” but wow, how his story changed history. Of course–not fiction. But I digress.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. This post pushed all my buttons. In a good way. Currently I’m struggling to stay true to my character’s voices–some are not believers — but I’ve been told Christian publishing houses won’t tolerate swearing. And I’m also second guessing my own authorial voice since I’ve been told my story doesn’t have a genre… loved your line about when story worlds come alive all bets are off. Thanks for the reminder.

    • So glad you enjoyed this post! 🙂

      Yes, you’re right. Even though believers are fallible and fall short at times, NO swearing in CBA fiction. However, you might try using strong action verbs to let your readers get a feel for your characters. And you can usually say something like this, “He kicked the tire and swore.” Readers have great imaginations and they’ll get your drift. Of course, the tolerance level may vary between individual publishing houses.

      Concerning your “authorial voice,” that’s something that’s really unique from writer to writer. Does your story read more like women’s fiction – story-driven, with varying viewpoints? Is it a romance, focusing on the blossoming relationship between hero/heroine? Does it have more of a literary feel – serious and not easily boxed into a genre? Knowing your story inside and out is important because it’s how agents pitch your work. Once you’ve nailed that down and honed your voice, your confidence will explode!

      Best wishes as you proceed!

  3. Plenty for me to consider in today’s post, Cynthia.

    As a writer, i’m still seeking my audience. I want readers to find joy and strength in my worlds and words, either as visits to a comfortable place (loved Mitford) or to be hopeful in facing a challenge.

    As a reader, I want to escape the news headlines, wishing all can be fixed. With inspirational stories, I believe both writer and reader can reach those sometimes seemingly elusive happily ever afters. For right now in my place in life, I need a hopeful and happy ending in the stories I both read and write.

    Thank you for giving me areas to think about as applied to my writing.

    • Sherida, I’m with you. I think we can certainly convey real life and still have a hopeful ending. In fact, I certainly don’t want to read an entire story only to find a gritty or dismal outcome.

      People read for different reasons, but sometimes, it’s wonderful to escape the reality of bad news.

      Thanks so much for dropping by!

  4. I enjoyed your post, Cynthia. As Sherida commented above, I want to escape the news headlines when I read. Yet as an author I know I need to have realistic situations and people in my little fictional towns – – but always a happy ending! Thanks for sharing this today (I’m later stopping by—been on the go!).

  5. Good morning, Cynthia. I’m so thankful you’re talking setting. As a writer that’s an area I feel I’m weak in. It’s too easy for me to stick to the same basic settings. And somehow my setting isn’t as charming as Mitford.

    I once told someone those books made me want to become Episcopal and move to Mitford. lol

    As a reader I love a story world like that! I want to escape and forget all the things going on in the world.

  6. I think setting my story in an environment I love makes it easier to see and write about.

    Great post, Cynthia!

    • Exactly! Why would we expect our readers to be drawn to our story worlds if the settings are marginal or predictable?

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