So God’s Calling You to Write a Novel about (insert story idea here)?
In the first post of this series, I broached the idea that God might use a novel written by a Christ follower to knock on the door of someone’s heart, or maybe even give it a last nudge to open it all the way so the light of Christ can shine in. I also pointed ahead to where this whole discussion is heading: Can Christian novelists go too far with their content in trying to reach the world with life-changing stories that can touch hearts and point readers toward God?
Mainly I laid some groundwork by presenting the wide spectrum of people that can be found among the world’s fiction readers, and to remember that every person on the spectrum of readers needs Jesus and the good news in some way, shape, or form. And that’s where I want to pick up with this post.
If Jesus called his followed to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15) and to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), as mentioned in the previous post, then it seems that every person on the spectrum of fiction readers would certainly fall into the “all-ness” of Jesus’s commission to us.
The next question that comes to my mind is: Should Christian novelists* then potentially be able to reach people across the entire spectrum? And, yes, I do think they have such potential. But that immediately leads me to thinking of the kinds of novels people read, and then I return to the question above, about whether or not a Christian can go too far with their fiction—and so I then back up a step mentally and remind myself of the old adage that no novelist should write for a specific audience, but rather simply be true to the story within that wants to be told.
For the follower of Christ who seeks to walk with the Spirit and be sensitive to his leading, then, a call to write a fictional story means that God has something he wants you to share with the world by way of the written word. Let’s imagine an initial meeting of the “Christ Followers Who Want To Pen A Novel” writing group, in which all five novelists start by sharing a general description of the novel they want to write:
Novelist 1 shares that she feels a strong nudge to write a tale of some dedicated church members who are girlfriends really trying to live out the gospel in their community. She goes on to say that she feels it will be a squeaky-clean story that would be rated G—maybe PG—in movie parlance.
Novelist 2 pipes up that he thinks the Spirit has given him a clear call to write a fast-paced action/adventure story that spans the globe and links the main characters together by the Christian faith they share, their sense of patriotism, and the evil they hope to stop. Oh, and he adds it would be PG—or maybe PG-13 because of some violence, but nothing too gory or anything, and no profanity either.
Novelist 3 says she really feels like God has put it on her heart to pen a story about a Christian woman who audibly hears God’s voice calling her to do some stuff that the public and even most church folk will likely consider wonky, and who will have to face—and learn to love—some rough characters who would never darken a church door. For sure it would PG-13 because of the disturbing scenes and maybe even some mild profanity, at least as far as Novelist 3 can envision it right now.
Novelist 4 says she’s happy to hear that last part from Novelist 3, because, well, she’s just not so sure about the story that keeps percolating in her imagination, even though she’s wrestled with it again and again in prayer, but she keeps coming back to it: a romance with two lovers …
Long pause here before Novelist 4 goes on to say that they are two female lovers named Jane and Stella, but Jane is beginning to feel disillusioned and then she runs into an old flame who just happens to be a Christian and they start talking. And by the end of the story, Jane and Stella are still together and still in love, but Stella keeps thinking about her old friend’s talk about Jesus and God’s love and all that stuff. And it would for sure be PG-13 … or, gosh, maybe R, because, yeah, the sex would be off-stage, or at least almost all of it, but there is some super-intense stuff and some drug use and physical abuse and profanity.
And Novelist 4 says she has probably shared enough, mainly because she’s pretty sure Novelist 2’s eyes almost just popped out of his head and Novelist 1’s foot just started tapping so fast and hard that the carpet beneath appears to be smoking.
At this point, Novelist 5—the group facilitator—says, “Oh, shucks. Just got a text from the wife and I have to go, so we’ll, uh, get back together next week. Bye!” And he’s off, mainly because he has no idea what to do with the train wreck of a writing group he’s just witnessed.
I’m not really sure myself what to do with all of this myself, as I alluded to in the previous post—but I’m game to keep exploring this cavern with you, so I hope you’ll come back and see where all of this goes.
*I figure that someone out there likely hasn’t preferred my use of “Christian novelist,” and I really don’t prefer it myself. After all, I’ve never introduced myself as a “Christian editor,” and I don’t think my dad has ever called himself a “Christian veterinarian.” We’re Christians, period—and this identity infuses our entire life, whatever our profession may be. However, for the sake of brevity and so that I don’t have to keep repeating “Christians (or Christ followers) who write fiction” and the like, I’ve chosen to use “Christian novelist” sometimes. Please forgive me.
If you’re in the Philadelphia region, please check out the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, taking place July 26-29. Hope to see you there!
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™