Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Writing Truth in Fiction - 4 Tips

 


by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

Thumbing through social media crushes my writing soul. These days, an innocent joke among friends leads to accusations of social injustice, racism, or politics. It makes writing a difficult thing. We now have to pour more critically over our work and that makes getting the message out, hard. Given light to highly publicized social injustices, innocent lines of dialogue are now taken as offensive and for Christian writers, the use of God or religion in anything is increasingly difficult. We can hardly allow characters to work through conflict and issues without strong social scrutiny or being tagged insensitive.

 

The secular world insists that Christian fiction is hoaky and unbelievable. Yet when we write realistic difficult scenarios, we are tagged as, harsh.  The question is, why is Christian fiction tagged as unbelievable? The reason—we tend to tie our stories up with a bow or present a relationship with God as easy peasy. Our good-hearted intention of spreading the gospel through our stories sometimes lends itself toward, preachy.  

 

Sadly, much of today’s world don’t know God. An April 24, 2020, eye-opening CBN News interview with Dr. George Barna revealed that more people, 56%, believe in satan than believe in God.(1) Stunned? You should be. No doubt the world needs the message of God, but with our writing under a microscope, we are forced to find new and creative ways to give the same message. The words we commonly use become stifled by media. One would say, “I plan to write the truth of God regardless of what anyone says.” That’s wonderful but if it isn’t read then what have we accomplished? In this world of over sensitivity, how do we write truth without controversy? We probably can’t find a failsafe way to slide by, and honestly, sliding by isn’t acceptable. What we have to do is stretch our writing muscles. Work to craft truth-filled words that will be read. 

 

Our message must be clear without being “in your face.” It cannot be shoved at readers. Instead, we learn to present the simple truth by creatively showing a need for something more in our character’s life rather than making a sudden “come to Jesus” moment. Many non-christian readers insist Christian fiction gives a knee-jerk conversion rather than allowing the natural progression of faith. Translated – it sounds hoaky. When writers allow a slow and progressive development of a character’s life, readers believe the transition.  Slow the pace. Take care not to rush the conversion, or force the character to make a change when in reality, that doesn’t always happen. Hence the unbelievable tag. In today’s world where words are twisted, misinterpreted, or taken as offensive, we must learn to understand, the simple truth is sometimes best, i.e. milk before meat. 

 

It is difficult to plot a story that exposes the hard things that over time, gently births the love of God through internal change. The wordsmith can hone their skills to dodge the things that can be misunderstood,  yet still, promote the changes necessary for our characters to find spiritual joy. Once they feed on milk, they can move to meat. Make sense?

 

How do we write truth in fiction? Sometimes I wonder if we can. There’s always the one person who won’t be happy. These days, it’s a fine line to walk, but it can be done.


 Here are 4 ways to write to a troubled world and still bring forth truth.

  • Never forget who you are writing for – If you feel called as a Christian writer, never forget who you are writing for. Jesus taught hard subjects through parables. He never called anyone names (well, maybe the money changers are the exception), instead, he gave them a story through love that pinged their common sense and His points always reverted back to His Father. He walked listeners through the consequences of their mistakes and into the light of better decisions. If we master this simplistic ability, what an impact we can have on others.
  • Do not be afraid of the hard subjects – Best-selling author, Steven James once said, “Don’t avoid hard subjects, instead, learn to write from the decision’s consequences.” I’m sure he grabbed this from Jesus, but the point is, he made this a profound thought that changed my perspective. Readers cannot argue with the consequences of a hard subject but they can argue opinion. Show the consequence of a bad decision and allow characters to work through. 
  • Stop preaching – Learn to write both sides of the character’s situations. Wagging a finger, insisting those bad characters repent, doesn’t work when you reach beyond your religious circle. Allow characters to truthfully express their understanding, or lack of, in their walk. Let them express their anger, expectations, or frustration at God and as the character develops, provide them the understanding they seek. Allow your “good” character to make mistakes, suffer consequences, and then rebound from better choices. Slowly allowing a character to experience and understand what it is to have a spiritual life, becomes realistic and authentic. Most folks slowly arrive at an understanding of God and the need only He can fulfill. Learn to write this way.
  • Stop praying for God to help you publish –  Though this isn’t wrong by any means, consider praying for how your work can speak Christ boldly in a time when words can be so damming. In today’s ultra-sensitive world, ask God for the right approach or words necessary to get the message out. Then believe He will do so. When you loosen the grip around your work enough for God to take hold, it allows Him the necessary room He needs.

We cannot write to please the world. We can only write to please God. Holding firm to the truth yet exploring new ways to broach subject matter is challenging. Speak gentle truth and God will pierce the souls of those who need to hear.

TWEETABLE

Writing Truth in Fiction - 4 Tips - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for christiandevotions.us and inspireafire.com. Cindy is the lead managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and also Straight Street Books, both imprints of LPC/Iron Stream Media Publications. She is a mentor with Write Right and the director of the Asheville Chrisitan Writers Conference held each February at the Billy Graham Training Center, the Cove, Asheville, NC. Cindy is a best selling, award winning novelist. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.

15 comments:

  1. Cindy, I have been trying to do just what you mentioned through my blog posts. I found a solution by using hillbilly satire to state truth in a painless way. To my surprise, people seem to love Cousin Rufus's letters to Cousin Cletus. The Lord gave the idea; I walked in his light.

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    1. Awesome. Using your creativity to send the message!

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  2. Excellent. Looking forward to meeting you at FCWC in October.

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  3. Love that last tip Ms. Cindy. We should pray less about getting published and more about getting what we're led to write into the hands of the people or person God intends it for. Well said ma'am; thank you!

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  4. it's true. When the focus is taken off of us...God does amazing things.

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  5. Thank you so much. You brought light on the very subject I have been questioning. In my writing I'm trying to not be "preachy" but deliver a heart provoking message throughout my story.

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    1. It takes practice to flip your mindset, but you can do it.

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  7. Great article. I’ll be reading this a second time.

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  8. Although I don't write fiction, I find your suggestions helpful and just as applicable to writing nonfiction. Thank you for addressing the need to write truth, yet in a way that people will read. Otherwise, as you said, what's the point?

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  9. it has to be done on Non fiction as well. Glad this was helpful.

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  10. Great article about our mission as writers and how to accomplish it. Thanks, Cindy!

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  11. Cheryl Cofffman September 9, 2020
    Hello Cindy Sproles
    This is the most inspiring advice I have received about writing as a Christian. As with the book of Esther, God is not mentioned by name but his finger prints are all over that story. The consequences of sin are made clear. Trusting God to answer prayer in his perfect time shines through in every twist and turn of her story. You have made me think about spiritual growth in my writing and I appreciate your insight.

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