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Tell Me a Story

Yehudis Sofer and Faigy Peritzman

The women sitting in front of me were engrossed in heated debate, their opinions punctuated by gestures and exclamations. From the bits and pieces I caught, the situation sounded thorny. A moment before one of them alighted, they both concluded, “It’s a great story. So well-written. I hope it ends happily.…” My jaw dropped. They were talking about a story? That debate was based on fiction? How does an author convey such reality and credibility when a story is simply the fruit of his imagination?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

story tellingThere’s a famous quote: “Words once printed assume a life of their own.”

“The Torah itself is our first example of this power,” points out Rabbi Moshe Grylak, pioneer of contemporary chareidi journalism and editor-in-chief of Mishpacha. “When the Torah teaches us the punishment meted to a murderer, it doesn’t simply write: Whoever murders will be punished with death. Rather, the pasuk says: ‘One who spills the blood of man, by man his blood will be spilled.’ The second half of the verse mirrors the first with the repetition of the words ‘spilling blood.’ In doing so, the pasuk is not simply delivering a punishment to a murderer. It’s painting a vivid picture of the severity of murder and allows us to see the justice in the punishment. Words have power to kill, and also to prevent killing.”

World-famous novelist Libby Lazewnik revels in this ability to use words to activate the imagination. “The reader takes something two-dimensional — paper and ink — and combines it with her unique perspective and life experience to create something full and rich. I suppose that every writer, consciously or unconsciously, tries to tap into that power of activation. That’s the beauty of the writer-reader connection.”

Chava Rosenberg recognized this power while still in high school. “I realized that it takes very little effort to make other people happy. Writing can have limitless influence on people. This insight, that I possess the power to bring happiness to others, continues to motivate me.”

 

Fact or Fiction?

Rabbi Grylak quotes a non-Jewish author: “The main job of an author is to erase, so that his every word will be as the blade of a sword.” When used proficiently, words can slice through layers of consciousness. In that case, why “waste” such power on fiction? Why not use that cutting edge to perpetuate the truth?

Chava Rosenberg doesn’t see fiction and truth as being on opposite ends of the spectrum. “When writing fiction, my aim is to expose my readers to the truth. People are extremely judgmental, both of themselves and of those around them. When I formulate a plot, I’m trying to portray truth without triggering automatic self-defense. When readers connect to the story, they’re really connecting to themselves in an objective manner and this actualization of reality makes their world a brighter, more proactive place.”

“Fiction has a power that other genres do not possess,” echoes popular serial author Dov Haller. “Rabbi Yonoson Rosenblum, the well-known opinion columnist, remarked that fiction writers have a different impact than he does. When reading an editorial or opinion column, readers are expecting to be influenced by the ideas of others. Therefore, they’re on guard, waiting, watching, and weighing words to decide if they agree or disagree with the thoughts offered. Fiction is much more subliminal. The defenses are down, and the messages penetrate more easily. 

 

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MM217
 
Not a Newspaper
Shoshana Friedman A deeper difference between newspapers and magazines
Services in Shards
Rabbi Moshe Grylak “Such a painful, malicious lie!”
The Pittsburgh Protests: All Politics All the Time
Yonoson Rosenblum The old rule — “no enemies on the left” — still applies
Danger: School Crossing
Eytan Kobre The hypocrisy of YAFFED’s assertion is breathtaking
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Moe Mernick I was proud to be “that guy with the yarmulke”
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An Honest Shidduch
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A Blessing in Disguise
Riki Goldstein “I never thought the song would catch on as it has”
Ishay and Motti Strike a Common Chord
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Riki Goldstein From the holy and separate back to the mundane
Rightfully Mine
Faigy Peritzman Don’t regret the job you didn’t land; it was never yours
Growing Greener Grass
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My Way or the High Way
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt We know what we want — but do we know what He wants?