Thursday, July 4, 2013

Writing Moments of Beauty

First of all, Happy Fourth of July! I hope you enjoy this day celebrating our nation's independence with BBQ, fireworks, and ice cream! And a reminder: be sure you keep your dogs and cats inside if your neighbors are setting off fireworks so they won't escape.  Thanks for taking a break from your holiday to stop by the Alley!

 Have you ever been reading a book and thought to yourself, "Wow. That moment was beautiful." ?

This happened to me just yesterday while reading Rachel Hauck's new story, Once Upon a Prince. I tell you, that woman is so, so good at subtexting.

Without giving too much away about the story, let's just say the heroine, Susanna, has always wanted to get engaged under this particular tree that has a folkloric legend of love, but her plans and dreams have just been shattered to bits. She meets the hero of the story in this scene.

Look at how beautifully Rachel describes Susanna's actions:

"She broke a dead twig from a tree and crumbled the leaves in her hand."

This line gives me butterflies every time I read it. So, so beautiful.

Here, it's not what she says that's important, but what she's doing. By breaking a dead twig from the tree, she is breaking off the dead, old remnants of her plans and allowing them to crumble to the ground. All she can see right now are the fragments of the leaves, but we as readers know that this tree is mighty, and that her story will be one of hope as she learns to turn her attention from the pruning to the vast, grand archways of the oak limbs stretching overhead. We know without actually knowing that Susanna's story is one of redemption, triumph, and dreams she has yet to even conceive.

This is what we as Christian writers should strive for in every line of our stories. Now, Rachel is an expert at the craft, and you may not feel comfortable writing metaphors at this point in your writing-- that's okay. What matters isn't the technique you use, but that one way or another (through a poignant image, smile provoking-comedy, or dialogue) you create moments of beauty.

When you think about the message of the gospel, it really comes down to this:

Things were good. Things went bad. And then they were redeemed.

This should be the outline for our stories.

In the movie Midnight in Paris (one of my favorites!), the Gertrude Stein character says, "The job of the artist is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence."

For the Christian writer, I would take this one step further to say that the artist's job is not to succumb to the fallen state of the world, but to stir the heart's desire for our heavenly home.

On my personal blog yesterday, I talked about why destruction bothers us, and why that's okay. As Christians, we are often quick to pretend the fall did not happen--almost as if we are afraid that acknowledging our weariness will somehow unravel our faith in God. But we're getting it all wrong when we take this approach. God wants so much more for us than this world, too. So much more, actually, that He gifted us with a deep desire for the kind of world He originally created us. It is our job as Christian authors to stir this God-given desire through our stories, and, for even a few moments, to help our readers experience those moments of beauty.

What better witness than to show the beauty of God and His redemption through our stories?

Whether your writing is "loudly" Christian with verses and sermons, or whether the Christian message is metaphorical, in one regard, we should all be doing the same thing. And that is this: in striving to write the best story, it is imperative we weave in moments of beauty. People pick up books to escape the heartache of the world. Let's point them to Heaven's calling.


Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Jill Weatherholt said...

Great advice and a beautiful post, Ashley. I can't wait to read, Once Upon a Prince. I've heard so many wonderful things about that book. Have a great and safe July 4th!

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Jill! I hope your 4th is wonderful as well! I know you'll love Rachel's new book! :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Mmmm, I cannot wait to read Rachel's book! I haven't read anything of hers and have heard she is a great writer. I do believe I am going to go download it right now! :)