Friday, October 27, 2006

Follow-up to Nagging Questions--Part 3

In that last-ditch moment, God hit me up side the head...with this thought:

Many readers, including some Christians, can read Dead of Night and even think it’s a great story, while not buying the part about deep-level prayer—because they’ve never experienced such a thing themselves. They may not understand that the power of prayer in the book is not just a dramatic suspense technique; it’s real.

God said to me: “I want your readers to understand that reality.”

Hey, I’m no dummy. Months before this—halfway through writing the book, in fact—I’d come to understand God specifically wanted me to write this book with the underlying theme of prayer. I well remembered how I’d struggled and struggled to write another story entirely, and how it went nowhere. Clearly, He had plans for this book. He’d pulled the theme from, of all places, the voice of a crazed killer.

Okay, fine, but I’d done what He wanted, right? I’d written the book with plenty of stuff about prayer woven into the suspense. I thought I’d done a fine job, and the story was strong enough to speak for itself. So what else was needed?

Wouldn’t you know--there was an extra blank page at the end of the book. A page I could use without messing up the layout. My eyes fell on that blank page, and I realized what God wanted me to do: write a short author’s note from me, personally, to the reader.

I wasn’t real keen on the idea. I cringe at the thought of “explaining theme.” If the story’s strong enough to stand on its own—well, it’s strong enough to stand on its own.

But I heard God loud and clear. That’s what He wanted me to do.

First I had to ask Zondervan if I could use that extra page to write a few paragraphs of an author’s note. Wouldn't you know, they said yes. I wrote the note:

Intense prayer, as experienced by Annie in this story, is real. In times of crisis, I’ve experienced it myself. On a day-to-day basis prayer can seem far more routine. It can be whispered, sung, shouted, even cried. But no matter its form, it changes things. As Pastor Paul Sheppard said in his PUSH sermon, prayer is never wasted, but is a “a meaningful relationship between an all-powerful God and powerless people.”

My intent in writing Dead of Night was to deepen your trust in the power of prayer. The roller-coaster ride of this story has taken you through darkness and now brings you to victory. That victory is the unfailing effectiveness of prayer to unleash God’s power in any situation, no matter how bleak it may seem. May you discover this truth and make it the foundation of your life. ~ Brandilyn Collins

When I first saw that note in the printed book, I cringed, all right. Especially at the “My intent in writing…” line. Made it sound like I sat down with a “prayer agenda” in mind from the very beginning. Hardly the way things happened. If I had to do it over again, I’d word that line differently. Still, that author’s note was not about me. It was about bringing the idea of powerful prayer home to reader, personally.

Many times I’ve wondered if that page was looked at critically by other writers. I’ve wondered if they thought, “Why did she think she had to explain this theme?” The writer in me still sort of cringes when I read the page. But the obedient servant in me knows I did what God asked me to do.

I’ve received a lot of letters and reviews on Dead of Night—many of them noting how this book spoke to them about prayer. You can read a few of them on
this page of my Web site and also on this one. It seems in spite of my cringing, God’s done some work.

I have taken three days to tell you this story to illustrate my point: Although I might question what another author has done in including or not including Christian content—whether in the book or an author’s note or wherever—in the end I have a hard time judging. Because who knows what happened behind the scenes. Who knows what transpired as that author came before God and struggled through the difficult issues of how to infuse the right amount of Christianity into the best quality story he/she could write. It’s easy to stand back and judge. It’s hard, when the rubber hits the road (when fingers hit keyboard!) to actually make it all work. To craft fiction for quality and for God’s glory.

Postscript: The author who wrote the novel I mentioned on Tuesday is a friend of mine. I posed my questions about the Christian character to this author (whose talent I admire), and we’ve been having an interesting discussion via email. One thing the discussion has shown me—even though we might come to different conclusions, this author has struggled with these issues as I have. What eventually came to be in that novel and for that character was not written lightly.

I’m glad I raised the questions—to that author, to myself, and to you. I hope our discussion over the last four days has given you some new thoughts to consider.

Happy weekend, BGs.


Cara Putman said...

Thanks for raising this issue and sharing your story, Brandilyn. I'm plotting a couple books right now, and finding the spiritual thread/theme/arc is the hardest part for me. I don't want to shoehorn something in, so I pray and think and wrestle and pray, on and on.

Kristy Dykes said...

I've always loved author letters at the back of books. This is the reader in me saying this, not the writer. I think you stressed too much over what other WRITERS would say about your letter, B. I think most readers love them. When I see one in the back of a book, I think, Wow, I can't wait to read it. They make me feel like I'm sitting down and having a short chat with the author.

Robin Caroll said...

I, too, love the author letters in books. I think it makes readers feel a "connection" with the author. And who can say how God will use that to touch someone's...someone needing...heart. You go, girl!

Anonymous said...

I like the author letters as well.

I just wrote about something with this same theme at my blog yesterday. So you know--I'm feeling a little put off this morning. There are quite a few lessons wrapped up in this story.

You're right. God is in control and if a book is published it is because He approved it for that specific time in history. Only He can see the ramifications.

Patricia W. said...

One more vote for author letters. Love 'em. Thank you for sharing this story with us, for engaging our hearts and minds in this issue. Something to think about, both as I read and as I write.

Nicole said...

Preach it, sister.

Becky said...

This has been interesting, Brandilyn.

Last week I did a mini-series (on my blog) about making characters engaging. I followed that up Monday with "Good Characters and Christian Fiction," expecting it to be a one-day topic. Then I read your post Tuesday and realized there was more in the topic for me to consider.

I appreciate you bringing up the topic because it forced me to consider issues I hadn't thought of before.