Finding a Story within the Story

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin


The past few weeks I’ve met and interviewed members of our armed forces. I’m writing stories about Vietnam veterans who live in Wyoming. The stories will be published online, in a special newsprint edition, and possibly in book form. I’m honored to be part of this special project!

While interviewing a former Air Force jet fighter pilot, I learned he and his wife have been married more than 50 years. That’s a longevity nearly unheard of these days. Some statistics show the American divorce rate between 40 and 50 percent; military couples have an average divorce rate of about 11%, according to During the initial interview, I wondered, “What did this man’s wife think about and do while her husband flew combat missions over North Vietnam?” I discovered another story – a story within a story: her story! So, I asked the wife questions and made a sidebar article.

My other Vietnam veteran interviewee worked intelligence and couldn’t share much about his work back then. I asked how his war experiences affected and impacted his later life, and in so doing, I discovered a new angle – a story within a story.

Whether we write nonfiction or fiction, we often discover new treasures: pathways, characters, scenes, and scenarios. Sometimes our tales take new turns and we take new directions with the story we’ve created (or are creating): we find a story (sometimes more than one!) within a story.

dog walking_istockIn the pet rescue romance I started last fall, I envisioned my female character, Sarah, rescuing dogs and placing them in loving homes. She does. But, like a river has an eddy, an underlying current in my story is the male character, a firefighter, rescuing her, in love and in life; she also rescues him, from his subconscious rejection of having a dog and a love life. There are stories within this story, plots and scenarios I didn’t anticipate when I first began writing the manuscript. The new pathways the characters are taking embark my writing on a new journey as those characters sojourn various scenarios and emotions. The end result will be as I envisioned: love between the two characters with a few dogs as well to steal their hearts; but getting to that ending has a few surprises, even for me, the story’s creator. It’s a fun journey to discover more stories within the primary story!

How about you? Have you discovered a story or two within your main story, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction?

Happy Writing and Happy New Discoveries!


Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at

Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small


7 thoughts on “Finding a Story within the Story

  1. Every story has another story, if we look. I am so happy about the projects you are embarking on, and even more wonderful, how they are impacting your ‘fiction’ life. I can’t wait to see what happens on both fronts. Continues success. Doris


  2. On Veterans Day, the town of Warsaw, NC, has a huge shindig for the area’s veterans. With Camp Lejeune, Fort Bragg and Polk AFB nearby, there is heavy military participation in the November event, except during the times when Republicans and Democrats are tussling over money, the budget and politics in general and shutting down the government. The newspaper I worked at up until January 2014 always does a bang-up job doing feature stories on area veterans leading up to the shindig and then covering the festival on the day of the event. I did several stories in 2012 and 2013. Sadly, some of the veterans I interviewed were coping with cancer, probably caused by exposure to Agent Orange back during their service to their country.


  3. Great post, Gayle. Yes, I agree that the stories within a story can be powerful enough to spark off stories in their own right. Ypour work on interviewing veterans sounds very interesting and probably sad, as well. Good luck with those ventures!


  4. It’s fun finding those stories within stories. I’m often surprised by them too, Gayle, because I don’t always plan them. Sometimes I know ahead of time, but other times they just show up as I write. That’s one of the fun things about the writing process for me.


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