Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christian Fiction Well Blended

Ever taste a main dish with globs of unmixed ingredients, (did your spoonful have the clump of garlic?) or the mouthwatering Christmas cookies still tempting you to plunge one into you mouth to discover the forgotten ingredient (oops, did I miss sugar?)

I completed the first chapter from my new WIP.

The same night I read the first chapter from one of Mary Connelly's books, turned off the light, and lay in bed thinking about the difference between the two first chapters.

Of course, I noticed her polished writing, hysterically funny text, hooks, tight writing, and etc tempted to stay up late to read more.  BUT--

The number one natural ingredient I noticed in her book was a perfectly blended story line which infused Christian concepts into the heart and soul of the book.

I reflected on her first chapter and immediately wondered how could I add Christian ideals into this story.  That's when God let me know--WRONG! Christian concepts are NOT an added ingredient.

Think of the Christmas cookies mentioned above.  Had I finished baking the first batch and then realized I left out the sugar, or flour, or egg, I might try many methods to put the missing ingredient into the finished product, but  it would never taste right.

I looked back at my first chapter and realized adding Christian principals into the story after it had been written would be second rate, cheap, and obvious.  I chose to rethink the story line and considered how I could naturally bring God's love into chapter two or totally rethink the flow of chapter one.

Just because I felt inspired and words flowed from my heart as I tapped the computer keys does not mean that the work I produced pleased God. Maybe I needed to wad up the paper, toss it in the garbage and start the story again.

On the other hand, I could choose to turn the story into an ABA novel, that might work.  I read a novel last year which had been made into a successful movie.  The author wrote an interesting story--well the ending seemed weak, but it had a great plot, the father had Christian principles, the main character developed, etc--but the book was not a Christian fiction book.  Even with the Bible references, church setting for some scenes, and the periodic godly words from the father, this book clearly was not a CBA book.

Some CBA books might have been better classified as ABA.

With the New Year standing before me, I chose to stand up and speak about this issue.  In truth, I am bothered by some CBA books which clearly added Christian concepts as an after thought just to be published in this category.

I'm working on chapter two of my WIP.  I can save the day by letting God shine naturally through the words. Blending His truth, guidance, and Words into the story line before the story reaches a first edit will clearly place this story in the CBA category.

Don't go overboard.  God already wrote the Bible.

Christian fiction serves quite a different purpose.  I guess I want to look at my first published book and know in my heart I wrote an entertaining story that addressed some issue from a Christian point of view without pressure, prodding, or wimping out.

What makes a book a CBA book to you?


Tamika: said...

Writing Christian fiction should open the door to the heart of our readers, in a natural way. Jesus is the best illustration of a what a purposeful story can do, and how to deliver it with intrigue. I turn to His pages often for inspiration:)

Gia Cooper said...

My prayer is that the words I will write will hold God's breath within them. I don't know if it would be worth it to write but not send out a work that holds the possibility of restoring someone to grace. I believe that CBA books should be written with the same goal--as if it was the author's own ministry tool.

This was a great post!

Keli Gwyn said...

I heard an editor at the ACFW conference this past September say that in romances the Christian message is best if it's not overt. That tells me why my early submission of a manuscript with an overly strong conversion story was rejected.

Form what I've heard, the spiritual thread needs to be seamlessly woven in the story in such as way that it is what one of my writer pals call "organic." If the faith element is truly integral to the story, it won't come across as an add-on but as a vital element. Without it, the story and the characters wouldn't be the same.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Exactly, Tamika, Gia, Keli. This is a great discussion.

..opening the heart of the reader in a natural way (Tamika)

...the author's own ministry tool (Gia)

...the spiritual thread needs t be seamlessly (Keli)

Let's add more to this list.....

Angie Dicken said...

This has been hard for me, because I seem to find myself writing stories that show the salvation message to a non-believer...pretty much obvious...I like the idea of the organic thread...
I guess it's safe to say that Christian fiction most likely will be read by there is no need to get preachy in it, since you aren't really trying to share the gospel with the reader...the book that would be most amazing is one that shares the gospel in ABA...closest I can think of is The Shack.

Mary Connealy said...

that is so sweet. I'm glad you found a foundational message. Sometimes I think only God is putting it in. I'm never confident. One of my steady prayers is that the Lord will make my words better than I am able to make them.

Thank you.

Mary Vee Writer said...

yeah, we need to not be preachy, but God still needs to be present. I suppose since the audience is Christian we can feel comfortable about writing Christ in naturally like we would speak. there is a time to share blatantly and a time to let God do the speaking through actions.

I thought The Shack was CBA.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I am honored to have had you stop by today. I think God answered the prayer you mentioned:)

For the rest of you folk, I didn't tell her I mentioned her work. She popped in on her own:) Yahoo! and Yee Haw! (that's Montanan for I'm so happy)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Ooo, Mary, a comment from Mary! How cool is that? She is such a generous writer. And so incredibly gifted.

Loved your post today. Very interesting. I started my story for ABA, but my faith kept creeping in. So...I started slipping in a little more as I felt led. I don't I am editing it, I'm trying to even it out.

Pepper said...

Great post, Mary.
Can't get much better than Connealy Classics for inspiration. The first time I emailed her (after reading Petticoat Ranch- her first pubbed book), I said "I was so glad to find your book. It's what I want to write in a contemporary." They are so FULL! and yes, very funny. I'm 3/4 of the way through Sharpshooter in Petticoats and it's HILARIOUS!!!

Anyway - I find that my writing might be a bit on the fringe of CBA because of content kissing scenes - but...again, in Mary C got by with it in Sharpshooter, then I think I'm safe ;-)

Isn't is wonderful how those Christian themes can be so nicely interwoven? Oh, to write like that!!

Angie Dicken said...

Huh, I guess since The Shack was so being read by so many non-believers as well as believers, I figured it was ABA!