I’m pressing forward in my work to modify my Christian Fiction manuscript. It’s a secular story with Christian themes of forgiveness, redemption, and love. My hope is that in studying this book by Jeff Gerke that I will be able to add some touches to that story that take it beyond a “feel good” tale to one that is steeped in the glory of God.
I’m not out to write a religious story. My hope is to lead my reader to God without having to hold their hand the whole way. I want to leave room for the reader to draw connections and to see for themselves how God has restored the brokeness that my characters face.
So I’m picking up this book my husband bought me for Christmas and learning lessons each week from it that will help me in these edits to my book.
The Invisible Novelist
“You want her to love the story, not the storyteller.” (Gerke 17)
This chapter takes me back to a moment of humility. I had written (what I thought to be) the most illustrious story. My word game was strong and even I was a little impressed with myself. I submitted the piece to my online critique group expecting an immediate response of, “This is going to be a bestseller.” You can imagine my disappointment when I received my feedback in the form of red slashes all over the place.
I felt wronged. “They just don’t understand good writing.” I thought to myself. Pride knocked on my door and I invited it in.
But when I read through their comments and suggestions I felt like they had kicked me in the gut. The critiques were right. I was wrong.
In fiction writing there are two types of story telling. There is the painted paragraph form and the invisible novelist. Painted paragraphs are literary pieces full of carefully crafted prose. In painted paragraphs the author works hard to impress you with language. The problem with painted paragraphs–many readers dislike this form. Readers (generally) pick up a book to hear a story. They want to lose themselves in characters and conflict not in difficult vocabulary and vivid descriptions.
The focus on the invisible novelist approach is to get the reader to forget that they are reading a book. As an invisible novelist you let the plot and characters capture the attention of the reader. You leave your four syllable words out as the author and you draw the reader in so that they forget this story was penned by a novelist at all.
Which method is right for you? It comes down to your purpose in writing.
For me, I write to tell a story. My hope is that my readers walk away with a deeper insight about life. As a reader, I appreciate an invisible novelist and so this should be my goal as a writer as well.
Three keys for writing in this style given in this chapter are:
- Keep your vocabulary “normal”
- Avoid the bizarre turn of phrase
- Stick to said
Understand Your Calling as a Novelist
It is important to understand the market for Christian writing.
Christian fiction is a title generally afforded to books with explicitly Christian content. Those books are ones oftentimes written for the already-Christian. They are aimed at teaching or redirecting the Christian reader. They point to a deeper relationship with Jesus. Their intended audience is generally those already under the influence of Christ.
There is a second category of Christian fiction. This group of books doesn’t get its own shelf at the book store because the books are not advertised as Christian fiction. They don’t fit into the traditional CF box. They may not explicitly discuss scripture. Rather these books take the words and themes of Jesus and mask them behind a secular plot line, non-religious characters, and maybe even a little profanity (you can do that?)
All Christians are called to ministry inside and outside of the church. Most feel a gravitational pull toward one end of that spectrum. And that’s okay.
I can remember sitting in Bible college and learning about being a teacher. So many of the other students described their perfect job as working in a Christian school. Not me. I knew I wanted to land a job in the public school sector. I’ve always felt more drawn to minister to the non-Christian. Not that I don’t see value in the ministry for the already-Christian, but I’ve always felt gifted with the personality and skill sets that mesh well with ministry outside the walls of the church.
That calling has shown up in my writing. And I’ve come to learn that Christian fiction doesn’t have to mean quoting Jesus and including stories from the Bible. Christian fiction can be allegories. It can be creative. It can be secular stories with a hidden layer of Christian themes. It can be a happy ending. It can be an apocalypse. Christian fiction means so much more than a girl meets Jesus for the first time. You may never find my book shelved with the Christian fiction that comes to mind when you hear the genre, but I am a Christian and my kind of fiction is heavily influenced by the God who has gifted me with the ability to write.
The Ameri Brit Mom