Tuesday, October 04, 2005

So What Was the Point?

Well, BGs, I’m once again punting the description topic to tomorrow. For today, I’m responding to comments/thoughts left yesterday about my post on the Charis Connection. First, by the way, Grady—you’re right about blogging. I do write my blogs in a Word document, then copy and past into the blog. Except for yesterday, when I figured I’d just write something straight onto the blog because I was so tired. Of course, I went and lost it into cyberspace. Sigh. Live and learn.

So back to the Charis Connection post. Guess what. All y’all wonderful people who responded to yesterday’s question about it—missed the point! Down to the last one of ya. Oh, you all had great ideas, and I could agree with any one of them. Just goes to show how different people get different things out of a story. But none of the ideas was what drove me to write the two-part post in the first place.

To make my point, I purposely had to keep that point beneath the surface. Apparently, it worked. The theme of the posts was found in the second paragraph in Part I: "They [other authors on the blog] hold discourse on how faith finds its way into their stories." I wanted to show how, when I write Christian suspense, the faith element flows naturally from the suspenseful events. How the story starts with action and plot, then through the characters’ personalities, the Christian element arises. In our Christian suspense, this faith element should be so flawless, so interwoven with events, that it doesn’t stick out in any way. So that’s the way I wanted it to be in my post. A natural progression of the story. In Part II, the questions arise about God—where is He during these nightmarish events? They don’t seem out of place because the character, in the very beginning, already showed tendencies of having a Christian conscience. They’re natural questions this character would ask at such a time.

I wrote this post because I find myself up against this question fairly often: “How do you write Christian suspense?” My answer always is, I really don’t set out to write Christian suspense. I set out to write a suspense, and somewhere along the way, the faith element falls into place based on the characters. In my Hidden Faces series, the faith element turned out to be quite strong and grew as the main character grew in her faith. In my first Kanner Lake book, the Christian element is less, because that’s what naturally comes from the characters in the story.

There’s a secondary lesson I’d like to mention, especially since we’ve recently talked about backstory, and foreshadow, and the beginning of our novels. No one questioned me as to why I started Part I of the Charis Connection post with all the stuff about being on that blog. Why not start with the story, as I always tell others to do?

Those paragraphs were there very purposefully. Because within that second paragraph was the theme, the foreshadow, to the story. I encased the sentence with enough stuff around it so it would sound natural, not shout, “Here’s what I’m really writing about!” I tried to accomplish this by making that part entertaining enough that readers would fall for the entertainment value itself and not see the foreshadow line as glaring. Still, after the foreshadow line is pointed out—the reader should be able to say, “Well, doggone, there it was, right in front of me. And I missed it.”

This isn’t something I want to bring up on the Charis Connection blog. That’s not the place for it. Over there, if they don’t get my point, they’ll just think I’m a crazy suspense writer. (Which is true.) But here, where we talk about writing techniques, I wanted to show y’all how foreshadow can work. And also show by example that whatever’s in the beginning of any of my novels is there for a specific reason. Every line. Nothing is superfluous. And so it should be with yours.

Okay, go ahead and throw your tomatoes.


Cara Putman said...

Now that I reread the Charis Connection posts, I can see exactly what you are talking about. Even with the explanation, I had to reread the second paragraph to see the foreshadowing for what it was. That is skillful writing!

The blog posts were a great illustration of how the faith element can be integrated and feel so natural. That's what I aspire to. I don't want to hit people over the head with a message. Instead, my haert is to have characters integrate their faith in such a natural way that it flows and attracts rather than pushes away those who are seeking -- even if they don't know they are seekers. :-)

Ron Estrada said...

I agree, we can't write a "Christian" novel. I can't overlay a Christian element in my novels any more than I can overlay a Christian element in my life. It IS my life. It would be like overlaying an American element in my novels. I don't have to think about that. My readers will know it's in America without me ever saying it. Anything else seems forced and preachy. That's where we lose readers. When I read BC's books, I never feel as if I've read something that seeks to take me to a new level in my faith. I feel like I've read a very good suspense novel. The faith element doesn't jump out at me because it plays so neatly into my own life. I'll let McDowell work on the reader's faith. I'll just keep him awake for the rest of the night.

Gina Holmes said...

Great lesson. It's also a good eye opener to see what others glean from a story. We're not there when they read it, so it's always a good idea to give our stuff to others to see what point they got out of it, to see if we're effective. It be a terrible thing if the underlying message of our story or theme, was through Jesus all things are possible, and the reader closes the book and thinks, it's all for naught.

Domino said...

How funny that we all missed the point - which was so well made. I see Christian people all the time so I don't notice the tell-tale signs that they are Christians.

I expect Christian attitudes, actions, and speech since that's who they are. That is your point. That's why it flows so naturally.

I'd guess a non-Christian would be able to point out what makes your jogging story a Christian story. The amount of Christian faith in a scene and how it is seen depends on the point of view.

This makes me want to have a non-Christian read my WIP to point out any "preachiness".

Stuart said...

Oh you sneak!

That's how I approached writing my novel as well. I wanted to tell a rip-roaring sci-fi tale, but one based on a Christian world view and not an athiestic or panthiestic world view. And I've let my characters bring out their beliefs as they interact with the events and other characters in the story.

Don't know how well I've succeeded, and I'm sure some will call some of my points preachy, but it is always going from one character to another and never from me to the reader (I hope).

Anyway way to slip it in there and get people thinking Brandilyn. :)

mrsd said...

Plop, plop. :) (But honestly, I'd rather eat the tomatoes.) Thanks for your thoughts.