“I thought you were going to write something ‘Christiany’ and now you’re talking about drifters and someone getting killed.” My family was visiting and I was making conversation about the novel I am working on. As I relinquished a couple of details that didn’t give everything away this comment was tossed into the conversation. I found it kind of amusing and a little disturbing that the impression is out there that fiction written by a Christian shouldn’t have the elements of real life that make for a good story.
It’s true, I am a Christian and I am a writer. It is my hope to someday publish a great novel that many people will enjoy regardless of their beliefs. Will it have some aspects of faith? Yes, life is that way. Will it have a message of hope? Sure, I am that way. Will it be preachy and overbearing? No, I certainly hope not and if it is I have missed my mark. Will it have conflict, messy relationships, and death? Yep, if not it wouldn’t be true to life. My goal as a writer is to have people read and enjoy my work. If I water my writing down to take out the tough things it will lack the punch to make the reader want to continue.
All you have to do is walk into a book store or browse online to understand the truth facing authors today. There are millions of books out there all vying for the reader’s attention. The opportunity to catch a reader starts out slim. I heard it said once that a writer has the space the size of book spine to grab the reader’s eye. Many books that’s all that ever gets seen – the title on the spine. If it’s intriguing enough you then get a few more inches – the pitch on the back cover. If that is interesting enough you will hook a reader. After that you have just a few chapters to reel that reader in and make them want to finish the book. Those chapters have to offer the reader some impetus to make them want more. You have to tantalize and tease them to get them wanting to know more of the story. This is the only way to become an author who actually sells books. Truth is I want to reel in readers, preferably lots of them.
So, I am crafting my story. I think it will be a good story. But, it will be a messy story. It’s not fantasy; it’s based on real life. Life is messy. People get killed. Mistakes are made. Confrontation happens. This is reality and this is my story. But, as in reality, the people who populate my story survive. They fall down, but they keep on getting up each day and trying again. They argue and laugh, learn and grow, make mistakes and forgive, love and dislike, maybe even hate. My peeps are true to life. They live and breathe in my imagination. Someday, I hope they do the same in yours and I hope you find that you can relate to them.
Yes, my book will be full of human failings because the world we live in is full of human failings. Those failings will make the story more interesting because we can all relate. Conflict will happen, people will die, and people will go on living; without this there is no story, no reason to write my book, no reason for you to want to read it. The book won’t be all sunshine and roses. You know what? Life just isn’t, not even for Christians.
"Conflict is essential to a story. Nothing to fight against, nothing to win, nothing to lose...why bother reading it?" ~Anne Perry (International best selling historical novelist)