Thursday’s Thoughts: The Story

As a fiction writer, I’ve learned that it’s all about the story.

Proper grammar is important, as is word choice, consistent point-of-view, and all those other things everybody’s always harping about. But if we don’t have a solid story to tell, it doesn’t matter how beautiful our words or now exquisite our technique. Nobody cares about that stuff. We want a good tale!

I recently read a discussion about Christian fiction. (I read a lot of discussions on that subject, for obvious reasons.) One of the commenters mentioned that nobody wants to read propaganda thinly disguised as a novel.  I completely agree. The story is the vehicle that delivers the message; the message can’t carry the story any more than the groceries can deliver the car.

Thinking about that, I found myself humming an old hymn. I haven’t heard it sung in church for decades, and that’s a shame, because it’s a great song. As a writer, I consider it (and/or its other persona–see my note at the end) my theme song.

Because I’m traveling today (going to visit the kids/grandkids in Virginia again) and don’t have time for a much of blog post, I’ll be lazy and reproduce the lyrics here for your edification and enjoyment. With any luck, if you’re old enough to know the tune, this will get the song in your head and you’ll sing it all day. (You can thank me later.)

Tell Me the Old, Old Story
Words: A. Katherine Hankey, 1866
Music: W. Howard Doane, 1867

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

Refrain: Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.


Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.


Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”


NOTE: There’s another once-popular hymn based on the same poem by Miss Hankey. I can’t decide which I like better!

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