Thursday, April 27, 2017

Truth Through Story

by Henry McLaughlin @RiverBendSagas

Did you ever wonder why Jesus used parables so often to convey the basic truths he had come to teach? Stories like the faithful servant and the farmer sowing in different kinds of soil.

Have you ever read a novel where the author’s agenda was so blatant the story suffered?

Christian fiction is notorious is some circles for beating the reader over the head with a salvation message. The characters and the plot are mere tools for the writer to drive their nail of a message with a sledgehammer.

This is not unique to only Christian fiction. A lot of secular writers do the same thing. Recently, I’ve seen several agents stressing they are looking for LGBT novels in every genre. I suspect the goal is promote the lifestyle.

Jesus was subtle in his stories, using his characters and narratives to unveil the truth of his message. I think this is because his audience was so varied, he needed to frame his story so the sinners and the Pharisees would both get the point without being able to say, even though they tried, “Well that applies to someone else, not me.”

Why did he do this? Because sometimes it can be easier to see and feel the wonder of a truth through the lens of a story.

This understanding came slowly to me during the early years of my writing journey. In fact, it wasn’t until my first novel, Journey to Riverbend, was finished that I realized the themes woven though it. Themes of reconciliation and restoration. The light bulb went off when an agent asked me what my story was about and I replied, “It’s a prodigal son by proxy story.”

God slowly revealed to me that reconciliation and restoration would be part of every story I wrote. And he’s taught me not to do it intentionally but to simply write my stories and let him work through them. When I finish a story, I can see themes ripple through, not as an agenda, but in the way characters are transformed.

How about you? What themes, what truths flavor you’re writing? How do you keep it as Jesus did?


Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. 

He serves as Associate Director of North Texas Christian Writers. 

Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers. 

Connect with Henry on his blogTwitter and Facebook.


  1. Thanks for this, Henry. Your posts always have substance. I find myself quickly done with a tv or book series in which lifestyle promotion gets in the way of story.

  2. Wonderful post. I find that themes of healing, both inner, spiritual healing and healing in relationships, tend to always be present in my novels. Often this healing comes through building relationships with people of different cultures, as well as, of course, Jesus. But I don't always know fully how the healing is going to unfold, and I hope it is organic to the stories and characters, rather than forced. And hopefully the reader will be able to "live" the journey too.

  3. Thanks for this good word for novelists!
    Elva Cobb Martin
    Pres. ACFW-SC Chapter