Friday, January 8, 2010

Narrative Transport

Every once in a while I read something that so aptly describes something related to writing and reading that I want everyone to read it.

Such is the case in the following brief quote from the foreword to a collection of short stories of a rare genre: Christian science fiction. The book is Leaps of Faith, edited by Karina and Robert Fabian.

I was a teenager when I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time. Afterwards, I wanted to believe it was true: that somehow, somewhen, elves had walked the earth, men had lived heroic, tragic lives, and curious creatures called hobbits had once saved everyone from evil triumphant before sinking back into well-earned obscurity. . .I didn’t analyze it at the time, but allowed myself to be swept up and away by the power of mere words on a page.

Three decades later, I can put a scientific name to that experience: narrative transport. It describes our capacity to be taken out of our mundane lives, immersed in another world and our feelings irresistibly tied to those of the story’s characters. Whether this capacity is hardwired by evolution, designed by God, or both, it appears there is part of us that can only be accessed by stories. Storytelling is as ubiquitous in human society as religion is, whether that culture is past, present, or future. We tell stories because we have to. We are made that way.

--Dr. Simon Morden

How about you? What book has effected such a "narrative transport" for you?


Lori Benton said...

That was wonderful Latayne. I'm glad you shared it.

What books for me? What stories so transported me? The Narnia Chronicles were the first. Christy, by Catherine Marshall came next. Then The Lord of the Rings. More recently, The Mitford series by Jan Karon. The Navajo Tribal Police mysteries by Tony Hillerman. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. And The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers.

Soon as I hit publish I'm bound to think of more, but those are the ones that spring to mind.

Lori Benton said...

And so did. :) How could I forget The Brother Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I wandered in Middle Earth for ever so long. It was the Lord of the Rings that gave me an understanding of what it truly meant for a person to give allegiance to a king. Full surrender and service. Something I didn't really comprehend until I had the visual of Merry and Pippin swearing fealty to a mighty king (and something that I need to remember daily).

Also, on the lighter side, I read the Vicky Bliss mysteries by Elizabeth Peters and didn't want to leave. Sigh.

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Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I posted that under the wrong account. Sorry!

Wow, that was beautiful! Definitely LOTR and Narnia series. Um... Charles Martin's "When Crickets Cry", Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series. Lisa McKay's "My Hands Came Away Red".

So many--too many to list!!

Anonymous said...

Latayne, great post. I love having a name for what I've experienced while reading some incredible novels. I managed to make it into my 50s before reading LOTR the first time. I began reading it only because a friend loaned it to me, saying it was her very favorite book, and assuring me I would love it. I planned to read a few pages, say I just couldn't get into it, and return it. But OH MY GOSH. From the very first page I was swept into the world of the hobbits and did not want to re-emerge. I devoured the trilogy, savoring every fabulous word. I watch the movies at least twice a year -- usually when Rick is on a missions trip -- and am a huge fan. So it's at the top of the list for my narrative transport experience. Blue Hole Back Home achieves that to a much smaller degree, because really, nothing compares to the world Tolkien created. Other than that, I'm easily lost in novels whose narrative voice has a southern lilt. It takes me back to my parents' roots I guess.

Patti Hill said...

Ditto! Many of my favorites have already been mentioned. As a child, it was Black Beauty and The Secret Garden. Later, I read everything by C.S. Lewis, loving especially his Perelandra trilogy. Just this year, I moved to 1963-4 Jackon, Mississippi by reading The Help. They did not have the greatest air conditioning back then, and the South proved just as mystifying and other-worldly as any alien planet. I LOVED it.

Narrative transport makes me feel like I'm on the Starship Enterprise, beaming onto an unknown planet...only safer.

Kathleen Popa said...

Lord of the Rings tops my list, too. If anyone wants to come over, I've got ALL of the DVD's, Extended Editions, so we could spend an ENTIRE DAY in Middle Earth, munching our popcorn.

No, nothing compares to the world Tolkien created. Unless it's Narnia. I read The Chronicles to both my boys, and it was as much for me as for them. I still like to think of the Great Lion bending down to call me "dear heart."

Other books? Hmmm... There are many books I love for the characters, but those characters tend to live in the world I live in. For a captivating story world, I'd have to fall back on my perrenial favorite, The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr.

Oh, and then there's The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

Lots of great recommendations here to investigate.

Unknown said...

I'm thinking. . .if a novel doesn't transport us to a world we want to go to, a different world-- why would you want to read it?

I love everyone's comments. And I'm ashamed to admit that I've not read many of your favorite novels. I'll do that, God willing -- when I finish my WIP.

Nicole said...

I'd have to say the Black Stallion books first. Then Rebecca.
I've never read Tolkein (don't like fantasy even a little).
Modern day . . . Redeeming Love, The Passion of Mary-Margaret, Comes A Horseman, and while writing it: The Famous One.

Karina Fabian said...

Thanks for posting Dr. Morden's comment, LaTayne. He's wonderful, isn't he?

Wrinkle in Time is my favorite, then Swiftly Tilting Planet. I was alwasy sad that Madeleine L'Engle never wrote more with Charles Wallace, but my first forays into writing were stories about him.

If anyone's interested in Leaps of Faith, which has 14 Christian sci-fi stories along with Simon's introduction, you can get more info at


LeAnne Hardy said...

Lori mentioned Brother Cadfael. Ellis Peter's real name was Edith Pargeter. Under that name she wrote incredible historical fiction that transports me into medieval England.

Unknown said...

Karina, I'm really enjoying Leaps of Faith, and I have to tell you that so far my favorite short story in the collection is yours!

Blessings to you....