Thursday, November 20, 2008

What is Christian fiction? Take Two

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 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?


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Cara,
Karen Ball had great words of wisdom! That pain can turn into a dramatic story, which impacts readers. Loved reading her thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

Anita Mae said...

This is where my hubby and I disagree. He liked my first book which had a good girl who never did anything wrong and for whom everything went right. She was boring.

Suffice to say that as I spread my wings as a writer, I blurred the line between what a Christian strived to be and what he/she actually is - flawed. With each book, my characters became more real. Their lives became more complicated as I wrote more about their everyday struggles.

I might have gone overboard, however. The contest entry that has finaled twice in secular cats has scored low in inspy cats. The inspy judges have said it's too flawed and not real b/c a pastor can't fall in love with a fallen woman. That a pastor can only love a Christian. That it would never happen.

I dunno - maybe it's just me, but I think all things are possible with God and that he fills our heart with love and passion for one particular person. He did for me. My hubby wasn't a believer when we married. It took him 20 yrs and now we've been married for over 30.

I think the more we write about our sins and fears, our everyday trials and gut-wrenching ordeals, the more the reader can identify with our story and know that it is possible to overcome it.

It's not the boring, bubbly books that make it to the NYT list year after year. It's the ones that reach in, grab your heart and twist it. Those are the books people want to read because the experience is cathartic. Especially when it happens to someone else.

Sorry for the length, but you asked...