Posts tagged ‘Christian fiction’

Quality Christian Fiction: A Prayer from a Friend

This is not mine, but the ache of every Christian writer.

My friend Jackie Lea is amazing, both as a writer and a woman. Is her heart’s cry, which places the echoes of mine so fully into words, the same as yours? Read her prayer/post here.

http://lightsallaround.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/quality-christian-fiction/

P.S. You should also check out the rest of her blog. It will give you writer’s envy, but it is so worth it. Gorgeous stuff!

Catharsis: A Satisfying Mess

Catharsis. It’s a weird word; fun to say, difficult to define, and oftentimes it is hard to execute in a way that isn’t too “wrapped up” at the end. I learned this word first at college in a freshman level psychology class, and then it popped up again in my Advanced Writing of Fiction course. (It’s also mentioned in Inception, in case anyone wanted to know.) Dictionary.com defines it as “the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.” Well, that’sa whole lot clearer. From what I could gather, catharsis is a sort of emotional release upon the close of a certain situation. In writing, this means that at the end of your story, the reader is left feeling satisfied, even if the protagonist’s life is still a royal mess. It’s the need for catharsis that makes reading good novels so addicting; we crave the release of our tensions and hopes for a character, and even if their life isn’t completely mended by the end of the book, we’re happy if they end up winning in some way, shape or form.

The sequel? Pepper. Movie cover image from imdb.com

Let me see if I can clear this up a bit. I’ll use an illustration that I came across lately: the new action movie Salt. Now, running the risk of evoking the wrath of those who loved this movie, the movie ending really disappointed me. The movie itself was okay, by my standards. But that’s about it. There really was no resolution whatsoever, and while I’m not saying that it should have been fixed in one night, it just felt like it was… missing something. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t complete.

In the same way, ending a story can present the same sort of challenges. I tend to gravitate towards pulling all the strings together into a pretty bow at the end of a story. Not only is this boring, but it’s unrealistic. The catharsis, or release of tension, might be high, but it’s too neat. On the other hand, if story isn’t given sufficient closure, the cathartic release won’t be strong enough to satisfy your readers. One of the best ways I’ve found to help find this division is to have other people read my work. (Gasp! I know, one of the deepest fears of most writers.) Having someone tell me that the ending is too contrived is a good indication that I have HES: happy ending syndrome. It’s where you ooze melodrama and glitter until your reader is drowning in it. Pretty disgusting. I’ve especially found Christian writers to be chronic sufferers of HES. No wonder none of them are really known outside of the Christian literature bubble. They all live happily ever after, except for those who received just retribution.

But readers will appreciate an ending that achieves some of their hopes. Not all, just some. For the sake of movie lovers like me, I’ll give an example of what I think is a good, cathartic ending. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Sorry to all you Pirates lovers, but I would have been very happy had they left the whole series at film 1. Seriously. You know Jack’s going to be hunted by the law, Will and Elizabeth still have to overcome social qualms and her wishy-washy father, but yet you’re happy. You didn’t necessarily want more in that movie. It was beautiful. It had an ending (unlike the next film; gag).

When working on your ending, make sure that you don’t wrap up too much of the story in a cute package. Let the reader think on the character’s years to come. That’s how you make a story stick in the mind of your reader. Give them a glimpse of hope, and let them dwell on how the rest could be resolved. It’s catchy, and if you don’t write a sequel, each reader will (hopefully), in his or her mind.

Do you have any other suggestions when it comes to bringing a good ending into being? How do you know you have reached the end of your tale? Do you tend to leave your story unfinished, or do you have chronic HES? Has anyone else come across an instance of powerful catharsis, in movies, books, or everyday life?

Priorities: The Place of Fiction

Just read a really neat post recommended by a friend about reading Christian fiction and how it is important to keep it balanced with reading God’s Word. I especially like her analogy about different media types comparing with different sugary drinks. Really thoughtful. I am now recommending this blog to you.

Check it out, ponder on it, come back and discuss! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, as I’m sure she would in her comments as well.

Read the post in Steph’ Sound Off blog here.

Profanity: Does it have its uses?

I went out for lunch and coffee with some close friends today, and the topic of movies came up on the drive. We first started out talking about how this year was kind of the Year of Animated Film, coming with some of our new favorites including “Toy Story 3,” “Tangled,” and “How to Train your Dragon.” Then we started talking about movies we hadn’t seen yet. Take “The King’s Speech,” for example. It was rated the best film of 2010, but it was also rated R, nearly entirely for profanity. We happened to bring up how we didn’t think that it deserved that rating, seeing as lots of other films rated PG-13 often showed content that was much worse and shouldn’t even be watched by adult audiences. Then I started thinking about some books that I’ve read where I can tell that a character, had (s)he been in a film, should have sworn, just due to continuity of character. That’s when I can really tell when an author is censoring his/her work.

As of right now, I have not been able to make any of my characters swear. I know these words would never come out of my own mouth, so I can’t make them come out of my own creations. Usually, when I reach that point where I know a character would swear, I stop. But I don’t want to hinder my characters by censoring them completely.

So what do you think about profanity in literature? I don’t believe that when an author writes a character as swearing that it means that the author is condoning the use of profanity; I think that swearing can be used as an effective tool to build character. When used in moderation, is a swear word more shocking to a reader than the overused (s)he-spouted-off-a-stream-of-expletives-that-would-make-a-sailor’s-ears-burn type sentence? Is it appropriate for characters to swear in stories by Christian authors? Even big-name Christian authors have gotten a lot of flack for this type of thing; have you run across anything like this?

Why So Cliché?

Photo from homepage.mac.com

Why does Christian fiction tend to be so cliché?  Yes, you know what I’m talking about. Cheesy love stories where the only thing that grows in the character is a forced love. Young adult fiction that neither challenges nor teaches, building off fads from secular authors. And they always end happily, with the main character becoming a Christian, or at least beginning the first shaky steps of living out a newborn faith. And by Christian fiction I mean novels with God as a central character or theme, written by authors claiming to be Christian, as a broad definition. There are definitely different views on this definition, but that is neither the point I’m trying to make nor the discussion I want to start here.  

Why do Christian authors tend to lean toward overused plot and cardboard cutouts for characters? I have seen it too many times to count. There is no excitement. The protagonist always has the same issues, and they’re stuck to their destinies, which the reader can always predict.

It’s the way fiction is written, right? I disagree. I think there is a way to write clean romance without making it cliché. Teens need to be challenged by characters with whom they identify; they are the leaders of tomorrow, and the last things they need as models are crayon drawings.

So are Christian authors afraid to write branch out for fear that they won’t get published? That should not be our main reason for writing; it should bring a message that needs to be spoken. What are the themes and messages that need to be brought out in Christian literature? What do authors need to implement in their writing to make it more intriguing, interesting, and different?