Friday, April 01, 2005

Coming Clean: Do Christian Fiction Writer's Write Boring Stories

At Faith in Fiction I posed a question after reading Dave's thoughts on creating meaningul moments in writing.

And boy have I gotten a wealth of responses. One that stands out and is still being discussed even now is this idea that Christian Fiction is ultimately boring. Regardless of the plot, readers know that God will win in the end. So why bother reading it?
I remember talking to an author, who doesn't understand why the Christian Fiction genre exists at all. She felt that christian novels were propaganda pieces created to push Christ down everybody's throat.

And to be honest she has point.

J. Mark Bertrand, a member of the The Master Artist and the Faith in Fiction Communities, who has really enlightened me in the past two weeks replied to my discussion with an interesting thought.

He says:

The Christian writer -- particularly the evangelical one -- faces both an aesthetic and a theological struggle. In fact, I would almost go so far as to say that Christian fiction ought to be defined as "fiction that results from aesthetic and theological struggle," because it's when the story lacks evidence of (a) aesthetic effort, (b) theological effort, and (c) struggle, that it seems to fall short. A lot of what passes for Christian fiction works from a settled, pat theology, just as it operates within a settled, pat aesthetic. The only struggle is the actual, physical composition: the naming of characters, the arrangement of episodes, the minutiae of plot. When a writer abandons these dishonest certainties and plunges into the struggle, at whatever level, the nature of his work begins to change.

Wow! And to be honest I sort of agree.
As a book reviewer, sometimes I don't want to read the end of a book, especially Christian Fiction. Becase by the time I get to midpoint I already know how it is goig to end: conversion scene, or big ephiphany, something big revelation that ties everything up just as sweet as an episode of Seventh Heaven. (OT: The best episodes are the ones with Mary and Simon cutting up)

But seriously. My comment to the faith*in*fiction discussion:

"I like the idea of creating situations where the character has to struggle with her notion of who or what she thinks God is.
That is very real.
I receive emails from...people going through things that have shaken their faith and they still live without an answer that they thought they would have received from God.
I struggle right now with my daughter's health. I have to wait until next Wednesday to find out if she has a normal heart murmur or worse. This fear is big for me, since I live with congestive heart failure.
Yet, where is my faith?
Shouldn't I carry on, joking and clowning as if this event will not shake my resolve.
I can't.
And regardless of the outcome I am more disturbed that I can't just let God handle it instead of my constant surfing webmd and Scottish Rite for answers.
I can't rest in a faithful peace and I would love to read about that.
I would love to write about that.
But I'm so scared of my own outcome. I'm scared of what if I write something for me and someone reads it, thinks that this will be the only outcome and send me a scathing email later abouth an opposite outcome. Or worse someone shirks Christianity because of it.
I agree, J. Mark. We need to raise the stakes in our writing. And that is going to eat me up. I'm coming clean."

What say you?

Writing to see what the end gon' be,


Unknown said...

Dee, I'm praying for your daughter and want to thank you for launching this thread over at Faith in Fiction and carrying it on over here. Thanks for your transparency and passion. I doubt your stories are ever boring and it's good to know there's a growing critical mass of writers who want to fully engage what's real.

Anonymous said...

Dee, this post is in response to the issue of 'boring' Christian fiction.
When I find a story boring it is usually related to either the issue of the writer's skill or craft level or I'm not interested in the storyline. The first can be fixed by the writer and the later is simply a personal choice. There's no reason for a 'pat' ending- besides not everybody likes everything.

As to your challenge with your daughter- you are in my prayers. However, do not confuse having faith with doing nothing. We need to have faith but He didn't command us NOT to use our minds and other resources He's made available to us. You should be researching your daughter's condition and her options. You need to be knowledgeable about her condition, causes, medications, treatments, side effects, etc. This is necessary to make informed decisions. God gave us doctors, medicine, tests, treatments, surgery for a reason. If it turns out that no action is required-praise God. If it turns out that He has decided a different outcome-praise God that He has provided access to the information you need to make an informed decision. Is this easy? No, but when it comes to those we love nothing ever is.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Jeanette. I am a health advocate for Selah, as I live with the diseases she will be checked for. And in five years, I have learned to demand second opinions, change physicians, and stay on top of everything. So, honey, I agree, there is divinity in medicine and we need to be prayerful and watchful with our health. I will be interviewing Donna RIchardson Joyner, former ESPN Fitness Pro, who has a best selling gospel workout CD. We will discuss health and god's message about his temples.
God bless.

Israel said...

We already do know the end of the story... God wins, the cool part is that we have no idea how it gets there. We don't know what part we play.

I've always prefered stories where the good guys win. I don't mind seeing movies where I know the good guy will eventually kill the bad guy. You just don't know how it's going to happen. A good story makes you enjoy the way there. A great story writer makes it to where you can't understand how in the world the good guy can win.

Right now I'm reading a Christian book called "Skin," by Ted Dekker. I'm almost to the end, and the twists are HUGE. I was completely lost as to how he was going to pull this together... Just like in life... sometimes it's really hard to figure out how in the heck God can really pull it all together. I still don't know how this book will end.

If you're used to boring Christian books, check out Ted Dekker, or even better... Frank E. Peretti's old books. Awesome fiction. And if you're interested in a book that DOESN'T have all the answers... Try "Visitation" by Frank Peretti... I'll spoil it... The good guy wins, but it's probably got more questions than answers.

And if you're wondering about life... I'll spoil that for you to. The good guy wins.


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