Thematic Issues

I recently read an amateur piece less than 1000 words long. In it, the author had scene breaks to create three separate scenes. I could see nothing connecting the scenes, except that grief spilled over each of the main characters.

Apparently I do not think about theological troping enough, because the answer to my bit about the vignette feeling disconnected referenced that. There was a young man crying in each bit. Why is it some people who write Christian fiction feel the need to be very obscure about it, then berate a reader for not catching the pieces?

I should’ve known when there was a quote from the book of Isaiah at the end.

It was my turn to read that prompt, so I did. The silent main character, who only appears in one sentence for each scene, was revealed by the prompt. I also missed that the three scenes showed the Last Supper, the Cross, and the Tomb.

I will admit I still fail to see the connections.

Taken from Wikipedia: “A Christian novel is any novel that expounds and illustrates a Christian world view in its plot, its characters, or both, or which deals with Christian themes in a positive way.”

The Narnia books by C. S. Lewis have been called Christian fiction. I think they can be appreciated on many levels, and the story fits together well. I enjoyed them without needing to understand all the underpinnings of the Christian story underneath.

I have a writer in my critique group that says he’s writing a Christian novel because of the inspirational theme of saving the protagonist. Like Lewis, he’s making the story approachable to a larger audience.

I wonder about some of those other Christian fiction authors who do not- they want to write only for Christians to truly understand what they’re doing. Does that mean the story isn’t strong enough to stand without the troping?

When is that just lazy writing versus writing for a specific audience? And if the piece I just read was an example of the whole, why would I want to delve into Christian fiction at all? I’ve always wanted the story to take me more than the theme underneath. It might have been one reason I wasn’t accepted into AP English in 12th grade. I had trouble distilling whatever the teacher was looking for from the very short story.

You know what? I’m okay with that. At least I’ve only very rarely been asked what my story was about at the end, and I have a feeling the one person who did that wasn’t really paying attention. (But that’s another story…)

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4 Comments

  1. Les Edgerton said,

    27 May 2010 at 08:48

    Great post, Ransom! This addresses one of the first things I try to pass on to writing students, that there are two things that must be present in writing to make it work–that it be clear and that it be interesting. Part of the problem (I think) in what you see is what I see in many students’ writing, in that they’re trying to be cryptic (whatever that is, and whatever use that’s supposed to have) and to withhold information in a misguided attempt to create tension, or–even worse–to appear “deep” or literary or some other equally godawful thing. Your thoughts on Christian writing are pertinent to any other genre or category of writing. Well said! Just write entertaining, clear stories!

  2. ransomnoble said,

    27 May 2010 at 09:06

    Thanks, Les! That’s good advice for any writer: Be clear and be interesting.

  3. 28 May 2010 at 17:36

    Excellent, thoughtful post. Real literature must aim for a general readership and deal with universal issues. It is a cop-out to write just for an in-group. Please visit my blog at http://angelafournier.blogspot.com/ Thanks!

  4. ransomnoble said,

    28 May 2010 at 20:46

    Thanks, David. Real literature is definitely the aim.


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