Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christian fiction discussion continued

Karen Ball is continuing her series on Christian fiction and what it is. As she mentions and as your comments from last week reinforce, this is a hot topic. I remember the discussions she refers to -- um, I think I helped instigate the one at ACFW with my check the box conversion scene comment while moderating the editor panels. I am such a troublemaker! Karen's latest post included the editors thoughts. Insightful stuff. And the comments on that post are detailed. People really care about this topic!

Here's my response again. But I also want to know what you think...so leave comments:

Frankly, writing stories that address the hard, real-life issues is excruciating. The last novel I turned in dealt with miscarriage -- the first book in my Ohio World War Two series. Colleen calls it my historical, married romance, women's fiction. I knew it was a thread I had to write, my editor embraced it, and it is real life. The gritty, ask God hard questions, kind of life. But it's painful as a writer to go there. In my case go back there, and dig up the emotions, the pain, the questions...but that's what leads to the answers and piece of truth God has revealed to me.

The content edit is also pretty substantive -- pushing me to go even deeper with the characters and their motivations. Talk about a gift as a writer, but I know it will pull even more out of me.

Sharon Hinck talks about the pain that came in writing scenes of the Restorer's Journey (3rd book). It's bleak, dark, harrowing stuff, but the truth and light of God shines through. And it's in those pages that I was challenged in my own faith.

As a reader, I seek those kind of experiences. As a writer, I have to be willing to dig deep, peel back the layers, be transparent (though the reader shouldn't sense me in those places -- just the truth as experienced by the characters).

And the hard part is that each book requires that laying it out, risking, and being vulnerable.

So what do you think?

4 comments:

Lynn Squire said...

Cara, I agree. If you want deep, you gotta go deep. But you can't write deep and be helpful to the reader, unless you've come out of it. You've got to know how to have the victory and how to bring your character to that victory. If you can't the writing falls flat and seems unrealistic. And I think showing that way to victory is where a lot of Christian fiction fails and becomes unrealistic.

Timothy Fish said...

I agree with Lynn. I've seen plenty of authors write about problems, but the solution ends up being something like she turned her life over to God and lived happily ever after. Deus ex machina is frequently used and it comes off fake. The problems in a book should leave the characters scarred or at least changed in some way. The solution or lack there of should always be based on the changes the characters experience.

Nicole said...

It took me 30 years of my life to find Jesus. God used an old painting and the young (at the time) football player Jim Zorn. Prior to my conversion, I packed some wrong living into a 10 year stint which I knew in my heart was not me, but I stubbornly clung to those things.

Point being: I know both sides. I know the selfish motivations for conduct, the rationalizations and justifications for doing wrong things--and those basic human tendencies don't really change.
If I can't write from the inner workings of the characters, my stories will skim the surface of human behaviors. Some readers prefer lack of depth because they don't want to engage in soul searching. They want to enjoy and leave it at being entertained. They should have books to read.

I want real but I want characters to fall in love with, to identify with, to hope with, to experience redemption with, to grow with. And I want to experience the reality of those who are ugly in their spirits and their lives and see if they choose something better or stay hardened. I write what I like to read.

Crystal Laine Miller said...

I spent my growing up years trying to "fix" and cover up/hide problems as the oldest daughter of an alcoholic. I want my stories to be la-la-la-happy-happy-joy-joy! It is so hard to put all those conflicts in there because I LIVED in conflict. ha

So, yes, you must become vulnerable, and as a Christian our trials are to be used to help others. As Christians we have this hope to show at the end of our stories. But the best stories go deep into those scary, vulnerable places, then find a way out--through Jesus.

While I don't wish for you to stay in your grief, remembering it will heal you, and weave into your work to touch others. Thank you, Cara, for offering yourself as living sacrifice for Jesus in that.

(And the fiction discussion was great!)

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