Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Dipping the Quill Deeper—The Why Behind Our Stories

by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson

Not to be Gloomy Gloria or Maudlin Mavis, but have you ever walked through a graveyard—especially the older ones, stones tilted by time, names and dates marred by the elements—and stopped long enough to read what some of the headstones reveal?

Years ago, while enjoying some time in Cedar Key, Florida, I took a boat ride over to Atsena Otie Key, the original Cedar Key. After docking, we walked along a trail, under Live Oak archways dripping with Spanish moss, between the cedars (Atsena Otie means Cedar Island), and past the remains of the old Faber Pencil Factory destroyed by a tidal wave in 1896. Finally, we came to an old graveyard, cornered off from the rest of the world by nature’s calls and whispers and a silence that cannot be described.

As I walked along the markers, I noted that these headstones did more than just tell the date of the person’s birth and death; these markers revealed something about the departed whose bones lay beneath my feet. One such marker read: The chain has been broken and showed a woman’s hand holding a chain that had come apart, the last half of it falling to the earth. The heartache of those words rattled me. They still rattle me.

This experience, then coupled with having to determine what to place on my father’s headstone, left me to wonder about what would be placed on my own. Initially, I thought I would have something creative carved within the granite, such as: She wrote some books.

But, over time, I realized that, at the opening of nearly every keynote I have given, I begin with these words: I want to tell you a story … because that is what I’m about to do. 

As writers—no matter our genre—we are telling a story. (Or, if you are a fiction writer, you are showing a story!) 

Something inside us has begun the process of weaving this story together. It has a point. A purpose. A direction we must follow if we are to tell the story adequately. This requires us, of course, to know the story. To understand it and, perhaps most importantly, to know why we are telling it. To see ahead to where its path leads and to determine the stops along the way. 

Not every story needs to be told. But those that rise up within us, that call to us—those stories that keep us awake at night and buzz through our thoughts during the day—these are the stories we need to tell. Before we do, we must lay the story out. Ask ourselves why we are telling it. What is the point we hope to make? Again, this can be fiction or nonfiction and is true for books or articles, the words we write for adults and those we write for children. 

Remember, your legacy will fall within that story. Those words. That point and purpose. Should, a hundred or more years from now, someone walk along a sandy path beneath the eagle’s cry and the rush of palm fronds in a tropical breeze and happen up on your headstone, what might they read upon the stone that tells the story of your life? Will you have merely written some books? Or will you have told a story?


Eva Marie Everson is the multiple award-winning and bestselling author of over 35 books, both fiction and nonfiction. She is the president of Word Weavers International and the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference and North Georgia Christian Writers Conference. Eva Marie and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they enjoy a lake view, their children, and grandchildren. They are owned by a very small dog.


  1. Your words have gotten me thinking this morning. Thank you!

  2. Oh how I love that ideal Ms. Eva Marie. "I want to tell you a story... " Isn't that what our Savior did during his ministry on Earth? Thank you for this wonderful refreshing take on why we must do what we are called to do ma'am. God's blessings!

  3. I love that. At times, I've felt done and then another story pops up. I guess we keep on telling stories until that headstone is ready for us.

  4. I love that. At times, I've felt done and then another story pops up. I guess we keep on telling stories until that headstone is ready for us.

  5. Storytellers have the upper hand. Words disappear and turn into an image that carries the listener. May we leave a legacy of stories!

  6. Yes. What you have said resonates strongly in my ears today as I prepare for two speaking engagements for my novel based on the true story passed down through my father--in eBook, it's "The Green Ribbon Murder."

  7. My husband I and frequently peruse the old cemeteries and ponder the life of those from long ago. It does make a person think abut the legacy they leave behind and I hope by learning from our stories we can leave something lasting that will bless others. Thanks for your post to get us thinking about it more!

  8. Thanks, Eva Marie, for reminding us that it's not about books but about imaging a story that prompts us to write as well as to read.

  9. Love your words. I am telling a story - my story - our story - His story.

  10. And you HAVE told stories. Great ones! Thank you for this reminder!