Friday, July 5, 2013

Burning Beliefs


The following question is one I saw posed as part of suggested writing tips;
Why must you tell this story in particular? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off?

This appeals to me because I immediately identify with the idea of writing that is motivated by the desire to provoke readers to be challenged to grow.  The stories I want to tell are based on my belief that life is a journey of learning, that life has a purpose which is beyond ourselves, and that it is often from reflecting on our own struggles and challenges, or the lives of others who have wrestled with life’s issues, that we learn our best life lessons, and come to understand what real love is, and what real life is all about.

 
 

I think this is so true!
 
Yet I’m reminded by Meredith Resce’s provocative post on Facebook, questioning the value and pitfalls of writing romance stories. In spite of so much acknowledgement that romance can have a misleading and shallow focus, and perhaps even be counterproductive for Christian writers, that romance and love are quite different concepts, still it seems that so many readers – Christian and non-Christian - want to lose themselves in a romance, with prince charming, the excitement of the pursuit, and the happily ever after ending.

I was warned when I began to write that if I wanted to sell books, I’d need to write romance novels; if I wanted to write historical fiction, it would need to be romance, couched in historical settings. The feedback I get about my novels supports this notion, but I still find it frustrating.

I’ve also come across many Christians who will not read novels at all. They are only interested in devotional material and don’t see the value of reading anything which they see as ‘fiction’. Of course, that is their choice and it may be a safe path to stick to the scriptures and purely devotional material. For all of us there’s a place for this kind of reading in our lives.

For others reading may be mainly an escape from reality; a way to relax, or enjoy the distraction of imagining a life on earth that is ideal, romantic and happily ever after. I suppose that’s also a valid motivation for reading.

Then there are those who love other genres; fantasy, mystery, historical, and no doubt there are plenty of readers who like to learn from novels, who like to be challenged to grow in their spiritual, emotional and relational lives, regardless of their preferred genre.
 
There is also the question of writing for Christians or non-Christians. How do we draw non-Christians to our work in order to influence their thinking, and yet maintain our Christian values in the way we write? If we can't do this, are we simply preaching to the converted?
 
What a challenge we have as writers! We certainly can’t address all these issues in any one story. We’ll never please everyone, or be every reader’s favourite writer.
So I’m drawn back to the original question:
Why must you tell this story in particular? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off?


 
See Carol's websites for more on her historical novels (real life with a little romance thrown in)

 
 

10 comments:

  1. A question that begs an answer.

    Thanks Carol, I can only say that when the seed of a story bursts from its underground nurture (my overactive brain cells)into the light of day, I cannot help but write it. Why? Ah, there has to be the passion, the belief that it must be shared, and the prayer that it will encourage or cause a thirst to know more. Especially if we as Christians want to write a kind of parable of real life, yet fiction. Jesus used stories to His advantage in getting across a spiritual truth. And we are privileged to do it through our characters' lives.

    All that to say that's where I come from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree Rita. There's nothing quite so powerful as life stories.

      Delete
  2. Good question, Carol, and worthy of some deep thought! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post Carol. We Christian writers have a fire burning in our hearts don't we? A message to share and proclaim from the rooftops if we can. It may be shared via different means - via different genres. And that's why are all needed. We can't all reach the world - individually - but collectively - we will all be writing genres that others - both Christians and non Christians alike will read.

    Thanks for your thoughts which are profound and needed. May we each be faithful to our call.
    Anusha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really hope we can reach Christians and non-Christians alike, Anusha. Not easy, but it's a really important one for me.

      Delete
  4. Ahh, the challenges of learning life lessons. I have just been transformed by one of those lessons, which has once again increased my capacity for empathy. Stories drawn from these experiences can have a huge impact on their readers as well. Thank you, Carol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful to hear of ongoing transformation Margaret. Isn't it great when we still know that we need it, no matter how old we are.

      Delete
  5. It really is a great question, and I think your paragraph at the start of this blog post is a great way of answering it, Carol.
    What I love about fiction is that we may learn valuable lessons, vicariously through others, without having to go through similar issues personally. Although I know that when we have finished a good book, it feels as if we've been through it anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. so true Paula. It's great if people can learn an important life lesson from other people's experience. I hope our writing does that for some who will otherwise suffer unnecessarily.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for the post Carol. Like Paula I think we learn from fiction. But then I can't imagine not wanting to read or write fiction. That doesn't mean it is the only thing to read or write though. Like everything in life variety and balance is good. Hopefully others will appreciate and learn something from our work in whatever form it takes

    ReplyDelete