October 12, 2018

The Truth Behind the Fiction by Connie Mae Inglis

I have been working on a novel titled Rewriting Adam for the past three years. Through a series of unusual circumstances, my protagonist finds himself helping an archaeologist survey an area in northern Myanmar. Their local guide is a young man who is Shatikha*, a minority language group from that area, and also the language group that my husband and I are working in, translating the Bible into their language. For me, it made sense to have my novel set in that area of the world where we lived for 13 years.

Every culture has its own worldview, beliefs, and legends, so I decided to incorporate some of these stories into my novel. In one of my chapters, my protagonist discovers what the Shatikha believe about ghosts. The ghost stories told in this chapter are either true first-account happenings, or are true stories told by trusted Shatikha sources. My husband gathered these stories himself as part of his cultural study. So, knowing these stories existed, I couldn’t help but incorporate them into my novel. It seemed the perfect way to include my interest in the strange and weird and my love for speculative fiction.

And even though I was writing a novel, I also wanted to incorporate my love of poetry into my writing. Therefore, each chapter begins with my own work of poetry that foreshadows events in the chapter. For the chapter about Shatikha ghosts, I decided to write a poem based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven.” And even though my poem is only the length of one stanza of Poe’s poem, I tried to write so that the reader would become uncomfortable—to shift uneasily in their chair, as if something scary was about to happen. I know I could never reach Poe’s standard with just one stanza, but I wanted it to be just enough to prepare the reader for what was to come.

Here is the poem:

Once upon a jungle pathway, bamboo heavy, blocking sun’s ray,
Traveller needing rest and beckoning home hearth, presses t’ward the call,
Danger comes so unsuspecting, in human form, veiled presenting,
    Shadowed stalking unrelenting, weary traveller trapped to fall,
Danger bites, addiction’s power, death feeds slowly from the fall—
            Fear the ghost. Fear—one and all.


That was a fun poem to write. Bottom line, though, is this: The real story behind the story will always be the Shatikha people themselves--how God has redeemed them and given them the divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-5). They no longer need to be afraid of ghosts or the shaman or any evil spirits. In Jesus, they have the freedom to share their ghost stories without fear. And that, dear friends, is Truth—and the most beautiful story of all.

*pseudonym
Shatikha script: book heading for the book of Acts, literally translated "The Story About What the Apostles Did." 

10 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read it!!

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  2. Your poem spooked me--success! Your book sounds fascinating. I love stories based on fact and look forward to reading it.

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  3. Like Kathleen, I suspect, when reading your "Poe-esque"I felt goose bumps rising. Looking at my forearm, there they were. Weaving the fabric of the culture and beliefs of a people you've come to know and love into your story sounds fascinating, Connie.

    Then, as you say, your bottom line--your story behind the story--is the greatest story ever told. I am soundly impressed. Godspeed, my friend, in your writing.

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    1. Ooooo--I love the coined "Poe-esque" word. Made me smile. And thanks for the encouragement.

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  4. Your story sounds very compelling and one I would definitely read. I like how it is set in a different culture with their own beliefs and strongholds as you said and yet I see a parallel with our society how so many are turning to occult sources to try to find the truth while in fact they are led further from the truth. I think such a book as yours that shows how God redeemed the people in your story from evil strongholds will transfer well into other cultures. Which is very interesting since you minister in the area of transcribing the Gospel so others can understand :)

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    1. Thanks Gloria. I've really enjoyed weaving the story of the Shatikha into the novel.

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  5. I think the best stories are those that reflect "real life" experiences. It sounds like you've certainly had some fascinating experiences living and working amongst the Shatikha. Sharing their ghost stories will surely make for a weird and scary read that will bring goosebumps to readers who enjoy speculative fiction.

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    1. Thanks, Nina, for your encouragement,

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