From time to time I read on different writers’ sites that the main thing a novel should accomplish is to entertain.
The main thing? I don’t agree.
Think about it. Dirty jokes are entertaining. Is that as high as a fiction writer should aim? A Christian fiction writer?
Don’t get me wrong. I believe stories should entertain. If they don’t, few people will read them.
But I think entertainment is not the function of fiction. I think communication is the function of fiction.
That Christian fiction has been labeled as “preachy” by many tends to scare off writers from trying to say something important through story, but I think it should instead scare us into learning how to say what we want to say in an engaging way that uses story rather than fights against it.
As I see it, this approach is similar to the approach God wants believers to take in all of life. My real point and purpose for existing is to give God glory.
But what does that look like? If I go out to the busy intersection a couple blocks away and start shouting out truths about God, will that glorify Him? Maybe.
I tend to think, however, that a more effective way is to love those God puts in my everyday path. The harried mom I might run into at a soccer game. A distraught co-worker who found out his wife has cancer. A disabled gentleman I might sit next to in church.
There are lots of people God puts in front of me, and when I give them a cup of cold water, the act is as if I am giving that kindness to Christ. Does this not glorify God?
But back to writing—it’s a unique profession. Writers have the privilege of telling others what we think by putting words down for people to read at their leisure.
Two things, I think, make writing compelling. First, if the writer has something important to say. Second, if he says it in an interesting way.
Some people don’t think Christians have anything important to say. Is that true? Do we see the world through our $200 designer sunglasses instead of looking wide-eyed at the stark realities the rest of the world sees?
You might be surprised to learn that I do believe Christians have encumbered vision—we see through a glass darkly. The problem is, all those wide-eyed others are actually blind, seeing without seeing, knowing without understanding.
Enter the Christian writer. We have the chance to write about life in a way that opens up reality. We are not limited to the mundane or to the impoverished human coping strategies when we stare in the face of our damaged world. We have more to say than the unbelieving, not less.
Unless, of course, we only aim to entertain.
Reposted from A Christian Worldview of Fiction, August 17, 2010.