CREATING CUTTING EDGE NARRATIVES
Faith-full Writing from Liminal Living.
My friend recently received some very useful feedback regarding his manuscript from his publishers. They suggested that his narrative required a tweaking of character developments, dialogues, and even chapter formatting to make the story more urgent and flow faster for the reader. In short, to help make his novel even more impacting, he needed to make it ‘edgier’, even a little ‘unstable’. In a world that is apparently becoming increasingly more unstable by the day, it seems counter-intuitive to consider adopting a state of instability in our writing. However, I propose that this edginess is exactly what we are called to, and if embraced, would dynamically enhance our story telling and its Kingdom impact on peoples’ lives.
Studies of Life Science have discovered that when an individual/system is "in a state of equilibrium, it is less responsive to changes occurring around it. This places it at maximum risk" (Pascale, Milleman, Gioja . 2000 . p 6). Comfortability makes things weak. On the other hand 'The Edge' or "Sweet Spot" - described by Frost and Hirsch (2011 p.90) as 'Liminality' - is considered to be a state that is essential for health, growth and vital living. By extension then, a person who is not experiencing liminality is potentially not experiencing all that life has to offer. Liminality describes the lifestyle of committed followers of Christ who impact the world by their humble self-denial.
Consider the apostle Paul's experience of life that seems to presuppose a challenging liminal lifestyle . Having lost his life for Jesus sake (Gal 6:14, Matt:16:25), Paul felt he had 'nothing to lose'. We do well to emulate him (1 Cor 4:16), and express this kind of abandon in our writing, in our stories, our characters, and even our dialogues. Consider also how Jesus’ love is best illustrated by his own sacrificial example (. vv 6-11). This could mean we might need to be more willing to experience some pain  .
- When did it last cost us something to produce our writing?
- Are our characters a reflection of a comfortable life or ones that disturb preconceived ideas and the status quo?
- Is there an expression of self-denial (and love that gives all, rather than self-aggrandisement) being highlighted in how we write, what we write, why we write, who we write for, what we write about, the characters we design, the heart they express, the narrative we create, and the themes we design ?
This is not a call for recklessness, but faithfulness. There is an apparent safety in non-liminal living, but God often calls His people out of comfort zones to more fully express His heart.
This is what “stepping out in faith” means. Consider Peter, Joshua, Ruth, Esther and others throughout history that we recognise as faithful people. They took faith-filled risks. They are the characters of inspiration. They are life stories of raw challenge to our own lives. To emulate their faithful living just might help make us whole, and inspire others to live more wholly. Greene and Robinson (2008.p 196) explain it this way: "unless the church is equipping believers to embrace a life of self-denial that adopts the values of the Kingdom of God, and repents of self-orientation it is rendered ineffective".
My friend’s publisher’s advice that he make his novel ‘edgier’, and even a little ‘unstable’ is perhaps valuable advice for us as Christian writers too.
When we express a faith-filled urgency, and self-denying creativity in our writing, a powerful Kingdom impact ensues ........................................... And great story telling happens.
Frost, M., Hirsch, A. (2011) The Faith of Leap.
Baker Books. Grand Rapids
Pascale, R., Milleman, M., Gioja, L. (2000) Surfing the Edge of Chaos: the Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business. New York: Three Rivers.
 “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.........”
(2 Corinthians 11:23-27, Acts 9:15-16)
 Learning to love means “putting oneself on the line and embracing risk, even likelihood of pain and suffering"(Frost & Hirsch. 2011. p.88-89). Our aim should not be to escape pain but to learn to embrace it to make it grow us. "To Love is to suffer... and that's probably why we don't do it well." (Frost & Hirsch. 2011. p.89). Growing brings pain.
On the Edge. Shane Brigg overlooking Israel.
Shane Brigg has a passion for mobilising young people to transform their world in Christ. This is evidenced by his nearly 30 years of Youth work including Chaplaincy in Schools, University ministry, developing youth networks, international leadership, and recently team pioneering a missional church community in a university. He is a trainer for Harvest Bible College, a Chaplain serving in 3 schools, and an innovative and adventurous disciple maker. He has a particular talent for story telling that engages young audiences and has several writing projects underway including a series of sci-fi-fantasy based teen novels that express the core theological and 'gutsy' principles of Ephesians. Shane is married with 2 young adult teen children. He loves being outdoors, engaging interculturally and expressing creative pursuits.