What Am I Looking for in a Story?

Recently, I tried to join a read-along group on Instagram. The idea was to all read the same book, discuss, and share pictures. It seemed like lots of fun and not too time consuming, plus I was in a spot where I had the time to read. The book was announced and we all dutifully got our copies. I started mine at the proper time and knew right away I was in trouble.

I’m not going to mention what book it was because my problem isn’t with the writing. I don’t want to discourage the writer or the reading group. The problem wasn’t the book, it was me. LOL. I think I just friend-zoned a book. But, it’s true. I couldn’t get into the story. I didn’t care one bit about the character. I dreaded having to read it. I knew in an instant, I didn’t care about this story.

 There have been times when I’ve had to wade through a book, really wade through it. When I was a kid, I refused to leave a book unfinished. If I started it, I would finish it. As I’ve gotten older I give myself the freedom to put a book aside that I’m not enjoying. Life is too short to plow through books I’m not loving. I weighed being in the group, but hating every minute in the book. I worked on it through to chapter 9 hoping against hope that something would grab me. That happens sometimes. I’m unsure if I like a book, then this magical line pops out and I’m hooked. Chapter 9 and I’m not only not hooked, I’m despising every line. Time to let it go.

I looked the book up on GoodReads wondering if anyone else had the same issue with the book. I watched the comments of the other readers. Everyone loved the book. Everyone praised the book. Everyone talked about how they were strongly impacted by the story. It had glowing reviews, a lovely cover, and was enjoyed by people who also love Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Stormlight Archives and such.

So why not me?

Why didn’t I love it?

What am I looking for in a book? What matters to me?

I can’t say that the book was written poorly. I had no complaints about setting, magic, or description, though I tend to enjoy meatier and more unique description. There wasn’t anything wrong with the worldbuilding. I just didn’t care.

I sit in a corner and ponder. I flip through pictures of scenes I love in my favorite TV Shows and movies. I think about my favorite books. What am I looking for in a book, show, or movie? What am I looking for in a story?

The first element that may produce a lack of interest may be that I’m weary of the female protagonist who goes it alone against the world. I’m tired of stories with strong central female warriors. I’m tired of women against women stories, and this story was all about a mother and two sisters who didn’t get along. That turns me off right away. I love stories with strong male leads. I love stories with strong families, strong teams, and strong brotherhoods. I couldn’t get through the first few chapters of this book, but have binged through the first 9 Sharpe’s novels in a matter of weeks. Now, I don’t dislike women in stories. There are plenty of female characters I love. I’m just more intrigued by the women who aren’t at the forefront. I’m more intrigued by the HearthKeepers than I am by the female warrior. And, I’m more interested in stories of sisterhood, not female conflict.

You may see the theme of teamwork here. I love team stories: Band of Brothers, Firefly, Criminal Minds, Sharpe. All of these have big teams working together. I love it. I love stories of smaller teams, like Endeavour, Chuck, or even 24. Jack always has his team backing him up. I love stories of family like Blue Bloods and Fringe.

I grew up in a big family. We worked together, played together, moved across the country together, and still live within the same state, be it hours apart. We have ridiculous group texts, jokes that are so old we hardly remember where they started. Our family days are crazy, busy, and loud. We love nothing better than to be together. As a believer, I don’t hold with a me-myself-and-I mentality. We are part of a church, historically and locally. We aren’t going it alone. I rarely have any of my characters go it alone. I love teams and families.

 So, having a young female lead fighting with her family and going it alone, being different and isolated, just wasn’t appealing to me.

Hotch’s ear blown out.

Another problem for me was the lack of intensity. I don’t know how else to describe it, and it seems silly since the story was about being trained to kill people in their dreams, but it lacked some sort of intensity that I’m looking for. There was nothing offered up at the front to move things along. No impending doom. No murders. No war coming. The story was just a girl learning her powers. Harry Potter has Voldemort. He’s there, always in the background. Lord of the Rings may take many years to get going, but the threat of the ring is there from the beginning. It clouds everything in a growing darkness. In this story there was no lingering sense of horror coming. Nothing united reader and character in a fear that drove you to read, read, and read. It was just her training and learning her powers with the hope that a greater mystery would appear.

 If there is no impetus to move forward than there is no impetus to keep reading.

From this story, I learned that I really need some pretty big, frightening, and horrific drive to enjoy a story. And if it takes awhile for that to arrive, I need creative and intriguing writing that grabs my imagination, or I need a team.

Endeavour being helped by Thursday.

Lastly, back to the team idea. The story lacked the visceral-ness of a team in pain. When your friends are being hurt, or they’re watching you be hurt, the agony is ratcheted up. There is a pain in friendship and family so much deeper than when you’re alone. It’s the holding your best friend back as his girl is taken away because you know if he tries to save her now, he’ll die. It’s the pleading for the life of someone you love. It’s the tears in a warrior’s eyes as his team is slaughtered. A mother who doesn’t care that she’s causing you pain because you have to learn is way less moving than Molly Weasley watching her children die. Gandalf knowing what it will cost the hobbits to go to Mordor is so much richer than siblings competing and hating one another. Watching Endeavour get broken and put back together by Thursday is what I’m looking for. Watching Hotch scream in pain cause his eardrums are blown but still ordering his men to fire is what I’m looking for. Watching Harper keep Sharpe’s back time after time, loyally following him into hell is what I’m looking for. Watching the look on Winter’s face when he thinks Nix has been shot. Watching Walter willingly go to another world for his son, Peter. Watson being Sherlock’s best and only friend.


Winter when he thinks Nixon got shot.

 There is a friendship, a bond, a family that I’m looking for. It is a theme woven through so many of my favorite stories and books. It developed in me as I grew up in a loving family, as my Mom read Lord of the Rings to us, and the Fellowship became a central part of my life. It is my belief that as a Christian you are part of the Church, not just out on your own. I love brotherhood/sisterhood stories. I love the stories of weary cops holding each other up, of soldiers broken down but still there for each other. Of those who fight for good backed by a great team who would die for them. These are my stories.

There is a necessary driving force beyond the character themselves, be it a murderer, war, or the crashing of worlds. Sometimes it’s pushing out from the government but running into Reevers. Sometimes it’s terrorist in Burbank. Either way, the characters must have something to fight for, and fight against. I need to be able to bleed, die, and hope with them. These are my stories.

This is what I look for, this is what I love and yearn for. This was why a story about a young woman finding out she had this power but being isolated and at odds with her family didn’t hold my attention. This is why dream assassination without a reason for assassination didn’t hold my attention. Not for even three chapters. Sorry. It just wasn’t for me.

Sharpe and Harper.

Movie Influences

Facebook had one of those interactive, post every day, and tag someone things going around recently that I thought was very interesting.

“I’ve been nominated for the 10-day Movie Challenge. Every day I must select an image from a film that has impacted me in some way, present it without a single explanation, and nominate somebody to take the challenge.”

I found it interesting to see what my top 10 images were. After looking at them I thought it kind of explain the struggle I have finding books I enjoy. I’m always looking for a weird mixture of beautiful writing, intense story and struggle, pain, and ultimate victory. There are stories that I like that are more down to earth, slice of life, like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. There are unexpected stories that have this visceral intensity, but you don’t see it at first, like Watership Down. But, lots of times I’ll start a book expecting it, even sorta of finding it, but it doesn’t hook me. It’s not the right kind of intensity. I found this with Dexter. I started the show, but only got half way through the second season before I was bored. So bored. Didn’t care. On the other hand, I’m watching Band of Brothers again, and I’m happily binging my way through Criminal Minds. There is this mixture of Comradery and intensity that I’m always looking for.

So, my movies:

Day 1: Rambo 4


Day 2: Rambo, First Blood


Day 3: Fury


Day 4: Aliens


Day 5: Lord of the Rings


Day 6: Lone Survivor


Day 7: Band of Brothers (yes, I cheated, it’s not a movie.)


Day 8: Willow


Day 9: The Never Ending Story


Day 10: Predators


It’s interesting to see what movies I chose as my top ten influencers. It has lead me to think about what it is that I like and don’t like, and ultimately, what I’m looking for in a story. More to come about that later. 🙂

What ten movies would you pick?

Quote of the Weekend

Courtesy of Pinterest.

Probably my favorite quote. This is how I feel about my church family.

Why would a middle aged woman love warrior stories?

Why Warrior Stories? (Part 1)

Why Warrior Stories_

Why warrior stories? I ask myself this question regularly. Why do I love them so much? What is it about them that thrills me far more lastingly than any romance or drama? Why warrior stories? Unfocused and puzzled, I can’t answer the question. I feel weird and out of step with those around me. I think how strange it must be for an almost middle aged women to love Rambo 4, Lone Survivor, Black Hawk Down, Fury, We were Soldiers, and Band of Brothers. How weird am I?

Then Pastor Jarrett preaches on Luke and Eureka! I’ve got it!

I love warrior stories because I’m starving. I’m starving for stories about real men, and more than that, I’m starving for real stories about Christ.

Most movies and books, children’s bible stories, and false beliefs about Jesus center around this vision of him as a quiet, mild-mannered, limp-wristed savior. He’s a long-haired hippie preaching some kum-ba-yah type love.

But, the real Jesus, our real King is drenched in blood. Not his blood, but the blood of his enemies! He is the calmer of storms, the one who faced the Devil and prevailed, the one who faced Legion unflinchingly. He is on his white horse, our captain, and he is riding rough-shod over the Devil. But, he is a true warrior. A real warrior. It is safe at his feet. It is safe to stand in his shadow. He has faced down fallen angles in the 1000s without taking one step back. We can stand safely behind him.

See??? A real warrior is a great danger to those who attack him, and a great good to those he defends. He isn’t safe. A real warrior is never safe, but he is good.

In our female-centric world, we’ve overcompensated. We realized women were under-represented, but instead of balancing things out, we’ve told men to go sit on their hands, women have got this. We’ve neutered men. We’ve turned them into cute, little man-buns that wouldn’t hurt a fly because we were afraid. We’re afraid of strong men. Women try to make everything safe, and have forgotten how to raise warriors. Warriors aren’t safe, but they’re safe to stand behind. A true warrior is good.

Holding onto this idea is hard. The world constantly throws at us the peaceful Jesus with his weak, sad eyes. The world tells us that warriors need to go away, stop fighting. Fighting is dangerous, gross, and barbaric. Also, our battle is a spiritual one. It’s one we can’t see. Between the invisible and the world, holding onto Jesus as our Warrior King can be like grasping at bubbles. They burst in your hands, beautiful but gone.

Why would a middle aged woman love warrior stories?
Picture from Pixaby, edits by me.

I love the image of the sheepdog, but it lacks something. It teaches that there are people who remain blissfully ignorant about the real world, sheep. These are the kind of people that actually think they can create peace if they give up their guns, failing to realize that just makes them defenseless. These sheep would be ravaged by wolves if it weren’t for the sheepdogs. Sheepdogs defend sheep. Sheep don’t like sheepdogs. They make them nervous. But the sheepdog doesn’t really care. He just does his job and keeps the wolves from the sheep. I love this. I love sheepdogs. But, the breakdown comes when the sheepdogs start to become prideful, arrogant, and hateful towards the sheep. They stop seeing their job and they start seeing weak, dumb animals making their job harder. Now the sheep are in danger from both the wolves and the sheepdog. What do we do? How do we stop this?

We need a shepherd.

The shepherd will keep the sheepdogs in line and the sheep in line. We need an outside standard of right and wrong. We need the Word of God. We need to train unsafe, but good warriors.

I think of my husband as a warrior. He’s not in the military. He’s not a cop. But he is a strong man who thinks clearly and sharply through things, and isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right. Now, he’s on his path to being an elder in our church. He’s going to war. He’s moving to the front lines of the spiritual battle. His weapons aren’t metal, but the Word of God. His enemy isn’t a terrorist, but false doctrines and sin threatening his church. He’s become an under-shepherd, a sheepdog. What does that look like? Pretty much the same as it always has. He’s got his boots, jeans, and button downs. He’s got his books. He’s got his beard going grayer every day. He’s not dirty. He’s not bleeding. He’s not wounded. He’s not surrounded physically. None of that is seen, but it’s all there spiritually.

Sibling-saints, we are all this way. We are at war. We are in a fight, a constant fight. See, in the spiritual war, women are mighty warriors just like men are. We are all priests. I couldn’t be a warrior in real life. I’m not strong enough. But, in the spiritual war, I can stand shoulder to shoulder with these my brothers and sisters. We, beloved saints, are bleeding, wounded, broken down warriors in this war. But we have hope!!! Our elder brother goes before us. He is mighty. He did what no man could do in the wilderness. He did what no man could do at sea, and he did what no man could do for us. Jesus is our Warrior King. He touches the sick, befriends the villain, and retrieves the dangerous. He faces legions of fallen angels and doesn’t break. He is our captain and he will see us all safely home.

I love warrior stories because my husband’s battles are largely unseen, the war I’m in is spiritual, and mostly because Jesus is the great Warrior King. Warrior stories help me remember reality.

This is why I love warrior stories. This is what I devour and this is what I write.

Quote of the Weekend

Courtesy of Pinterest.

I love this moment in Band of Brothers. It’s the moment when Lipton realizes he has a commander he can follow. It’s simply beautiful.

Quote of the Weekend


Image from Pixabay. Edits by me.


I love this quote. Winters is one of military heroes. This is on a statue in Europe dedicated to him. I think this is very true, greatness can be seen in war. It gleams like a jagged diamond dropped in the mud, muck, and blood. It’s one of the reasons I come back to war stories over and over.