Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Can I be honest? Guest post by debut author Camille Eide

Image courtesy of winnond at 

Image courtesy of winnond at

Whether we write novels, how-tos, devotionals, or articles, writers are Communicators. We want to engage and speak to readers in a significant way. And we want to be real. But is there such a thing as being too real?

Have you ever read a story that was not realistic enough (i.e. sappy, shallow, Pollyanna-ish) or way too realistic (wow, thanks, I now have that image burned on my brain forever)?

As a storyteller, my first goal is to engage and entertain, since readers don’t usually pick up a novel in search of a lesson or a personal challenge. For my own writing (and I love that we are all uniquely called to different goals with our writing), what follows hard on the heels of entertainment is to encourage hope and faith. And we are living in a time when people are desperate for hope and encouragement.

So how do we do offer bright hope and yet write real?

Though I would love to talk about my new novel, Like There’s No Tomorrow, I want to bring up a story I’ve not yet released, The Memoir of Johnny Devine.

Set in 1953, it’s the story of an ex-Hollywood heartthrob turned born-again Christian who hires a modest WW2 widow to write his memoir. It’s a twist on the fated “good girl reforms bad boy” tale because in this case, the Bad Boy reforms the Good Girl through the telling of his life’s story. (I had to study the art of memoir writing to do this, which made for a challenging dual story writing experience . . . more on that another time. . .) But . . . if you know anything about the top-billed stars of the 30s and 40s (think Clark Gable or Cary Grant) you know that their off-camera lives were often quite sordid.

I’m guessing most readers who choose Christian fiction hope to avoid these types of scandalous tales. And the last thing I want to do is shock readers with a womanizer’s escapades. But imagine for a moment a handsome, well-known actor driven to tell his story,whose only goal is to show the transforming power of Christ, and to share the hope he’s found. Telling his story is difficult—even painful at times—and it becomes more so when he must dictate it to a respectable young woman. 

What to do? Johnny has no desire to glamorize his past, and doesn’t like re-living things he’s now ashamed of, but for the heights of transformation to be fully appreciated, the depths of darkness must be shown. His past is what it is. He can’t sugar-coat it—especially if he wants to illustrate God’s amazing grace.

Perhaps Johnny will discover that gritty truths can be told with gentle tact, wisdom, and respect for the hearer.

I've heard testimonials at church from Teen Challenge participants who tell their dramatic stories of freedom from addiction and destructive lifestyles. The congregation holds their collective breaths as men talk about spiraling out of control with drugs or alcohol, and the subsequent impact on their lives and the lives of others. Most of the time, the details are presented with just enough reality to show the depth of hopelessness and yet not so explicitly that the hearers are overwhelmed and left with graphic images burned on their brain.

It’s possible to show reality in a way that doesn’t shock or grab people by the chin and force them to gawk at the wreckage as they pass by, leaving them with an indelible mental image. Yes, reality is gritty. It pummels and bruises and leaves us and those we love altered. It also reminds us that we need hope now more than ever. As if we need reminding.

Should we be real? Yes, please! No one wants to read Pollyannatopia. But let’s be real like a memoir—with wisdom and tact, not listing every gritty detail on some quest for full disclosure, but gently laying down key realities that point to a beautiful truth. Not hiding ugliness as if to fool anyone, but not framing it and hanging in on our front door either.

We must be real. And we can do so with wisdom, respecting our reader’s trust in us while using our powerful communication skills to convey the dark depths and dizzying heights of redemption.

Let's chat: How do you feel about this? What level of reality are you comfortable with writing about?

Yours Truly,

LTNT Cover
Camille’s new contemporary novel, Like There’s No Tomorrow, released Sept 30, 2014 from Ashberry Lane Publishing. It’s a mildly amusing yet tender love story about two young, single caretakers, two quirky old Scottish sisters bent on reuniting, and too many agendas. It’s a love story with a tug-o-war over a daft old woman, family drama, faith testing, and the gift of each new day.


Camille Eide writes heart-tugging tales of love, faith, and family. She lives in Oregon with her husband and is a mom, grammy, church office manager, bass guitarist, and a fan of muscle cars, tender romance, and Peanut M&Ms. Find the book at: Kindle, Paperback, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Smashwords and Goodreads. Find Camille at: Camille’s Website, FaceBook, Twitter, Email Blogging on God’s grace at Along the Banks and about Fiction & film at Extreme Keyboarding.


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

So glad to have you here today, friend!

"How do we offer bright hope and yet write real?"

That's such an excellent question, and one that I often wrestle with. My writing veers toward the real-and-gritty end of the equation - I write what I like to read. But hope is essential. It's a hard place to be in, because I think neither the Christian nor the secular markets quite know what to do with work like that.

I have to be aware of the fact that I'm probably comfortable with more edginess than many of my readers would be, so I need to be respectful of my audience... but being honest is often the louder voice inside my writer brain. :) For my first draft at least, I try not to censor. I just write real and then deal with the fallout... and cleanup... later. ;)

Great post!! It sounds like an utterly fascinating story.

Casey said...

Personally, I love it when authors take real life and make a fictional novel out of it. Like you said, it needs to be done tastefully and I do read fiction to escape--because I am looking for that happy ending, but also that authenticity and relatibility to real life. It's an interesting fine line to walk. Thanks for being here, Camille!

Glynis said...

My writing partner and I are looking into doing a screenplay for a secular audience about a real-life crime and trial. The manuscript we were given has a lot of--let's just say "reality" in it and we're in the midst of finding a hopeful and redemptive angle that will give the story necessary tension and will sound real (since it is) but not delve too deeply into a world we'd rather stay out of. It is an interesting conundrum. But we believe that because God is everywhere, He's in this story too, even if we can't name Him. Great post. Gives me a lot to think about!

Andi said...

Our lives are messy, if they weren't we wouldn't need a Savior. If we don't write real how can we have an impact on broken people. We can't. Christ hung out with broken people and He touched their lives with His life. So, write real!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Camille! Writing real? Yes, please. I like to read "real" and I'm learning to write it too. I find that in my first drafts, I don't really tap into the emotions of my characters very deeply. I'm learning to go back and make what they're feeling and why more real in the follow up versions of the story.

I tend to not like details that are too graphic (like you said—having images burned into my mind that I'd rather forget), but I want to know the taste, or the glimpse of real. Just not be inundated with more detail than I need for the story to come alive in my mind. :)

Camille Eide said...

It is a fine line, isn't it?

I for one am extremely glad that Jesus isn't afraid of messy, lol. And I'm also awed by the way he dealt with the fallen world around him. He loved fully, he healed, he offered life and hope. :) And though he hung out with the broken, he didn't have to get down & dirty to be able to love them or to understand them or to be understood. He remained the spotless Lamb we needed him to be. And he told really cool stories. :)

Camille Eide said...

By the way, Thank You, Karen & Alleycats, for having me!

Jeanne, you nailed it. Sensory description is emotive and absolutely necessary in a great story. We are wired to remember and feel sensory things. A taste, a glimpse, just enough to give the picture or sensation we are going for without giving unneeded detail. Some of us are either sensitive to ugly stuff from messy pasts, others are just super sensitive to "visual" input and my feeling is that if you can give the needed "real" fact or sensory detail without reopening someone's tender scar or busting past the shaky guard they have on their thought life, then you've scored. Some are on a lifelong road to healing from past "reality" and I'd rather not add any roadblocks to that healing, if I can help it. :)