Monthly Archives: November 2012

Writing a Wrong

Should Christian fiction use dark topics to tell a story?

Let me answer that question by asking another: Can light shine in darkness?

Of course light can shine in darkness. So why not show how the light brings hope, peace, security, or direction? As a suspense writer, I’m aware of the struggle to be realistic about the darkness while being optimistic about the light. Many of my favorite Christian writers tackle hard–and uncomfortable–issues with vivid skill. Their desire is not to glorify evil or a reader to enter into that evil, but their prayer is that their writing will grab a reader’s heart and mind with the liberating hope that is available in God. We want to describe the “real” world in which evil lurks, but only to set the stage for the light.

It’s my opinion that as a Christian writer I do not need to use profanity or sex as props in my stories. I can show a person’s anger or tell that they “cursed” or something like that without getting graphic. Yet I’m not going to shy away from tough issues (like divorce, death, abortion, rape, abuse, deceit, etc…) just because those are hard to deal with. I’m of the opinion that some Christians are way to squeamish. They are the ones who probably skip the Old Testament. It can be pretty gory.

What are some books you’ve read that were set in tough settings? What topics do you wish Christian fiction writers would deal with?

If you want to see what topics Christian fiction addresses, you can go to Fiction Finder and search for books by topic. It’s an incredible resource.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, Writing

A Matter Of Interpretation

Some time ago I went to the doctor. With that experience still in my mind, let me offer the following interpretation to a few medical phrases.

  • When the nurse says, “This may sting a little” what she really means is, “This has been outlawed in three other countries.”
  • When the nurse asks, “How would you rate your pain?” what she’s really asking is “On a scale of one to ten, how big of a sissy are you?”
  • When the person weighing you says, ‘Wow!”, what they really mean is “Oh, Wow! Can you say Jenny Craig?”
  • When the nurse says, “I have to shave you in a few places,” what she really means is “The doctor has no idea I’m doing this, but I’m bored and I found a razor.”
  • When the doctor says, “Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle” what he really means is [insert evil scientist laugh here].
  • When the doctor offers to “pull that tape off for you” what she really means is “Have you ever been skinned alive?”
  • And when they say “You’re going to feel a little pressure” what they really mean is “This will hurt until you cry for your mommy.”

I offer this gift of interpretation for the betterment of humanity (plus that, I don’t often get to use the word “betterment”). But seriously…the whole “what did he/she really mean by that?” quandary often causes undue stress in many areas of our lives. We can become suspicious of another’s intent, thereby making us seek for the hidden meaning between the lines.

We can do this as writers too.

In fact, writers are one of the more susceptible groups because we seek critical feedback so often. Not to mention the editorial comments offered without invitation too. If you don’t already have thick skin, you’ll need to acquire it pronto. Otherwise your imagination can run wild, draining you of the creative energy needed to be a good steward of story. If a friend says “not bad” you can get tough enough to ask them to explain, or you can just assume that what they’re really saying is, “I barely know how to read and you didn’t have enough pictures in the book.” And when an agent says, “I don’t think I can sell this,” you can either learn more about the problems that are hindering the future of that project, or you can just decide that what the agent is saying is “I don’t have the skills or contacts necessary to get this obvious bestseller to the right people.” Or when a contest judge gets snarky and misses the brilliance of your entry, you might be tempted to think that what they’re really saying is, “You’ll never amount to anything as a writer. What were you thinking by even entering this contest?”

Friend–and fellow writer–the only way to grow as a writer is to be able to control our tendency to look for hidden messages in every comment we are given. And we have to be able to separate who we are as a person from the particular piece of writing being discussed. Most people–especially other Christians–are not trying to hurt you. They’re just assuming that when you said you wanted honest feedback, you really meant it and were prepared to handle it. They want to see you succeed. (At least I believe this to be true of the members of American Christian Fiction Writers).

As a Christian writer, I want to create the best stories I’m capable of writing. And I want to stay teachable and open, able to listen to the educated opinions of others. I’ll accept some. I’ll give a polite nod to others, but respectfully disagree with them. Because none of us knows everything.

And I’ll keep writing for the Lord. Because when Jesus said, “Be on the alert,” what He meant was, “I’ll be seeing you.”

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, reading, Writing

My place on the shelf (just for fun)

I’m at the library, surrounded by shelves of books. I’m sitting at an old oak table next to a set of three windows. Directly in front of me is the place where my book will be placed. My mind drifts…

Bold black letters will spell out “Timm” from the spine of a colorful cover. I imagine someone scurrying into the librarian’s counter and breathlessly saying, “Do you have that new book by Larry W. Timm?” A jolt of happiness laced adrenaline tickles my stomach, and I look away, trying to act like I didn’t hear the panting patron’s request. A commotion draws my attention back to the counter.

“But I was going to check that book out,” announces a sharp-dressed man in a very non-library voice. He waves his hands in the air.

“I was here first,” declares the lady. She’s at least two feet shorter than the man, but equally determined to stake her claim.

“You don’t understand,” the man says, offering a too-wide smile, “I took off work to get here before the library closes.”

“Well, I don’t care if you live in the basement, and are checking out the book to read to orphans. I’ve waited two weeks to get to read this novel!”

The librarian clears his throat. I imagine he’s calling on his experience as a pastor to resolve this conflict. “Sir, I can put you on the waiting list for the book. There are–”

“No!”

“But sir,” the librarian pleads, “Mrs. Smartreader here has been on the list for two weeks. The book was returned this morning and the minute the library was open to the public, I called and told her she had 27 seconds to get here to claim it. She made it in 23!”

“But…but…” The man swivels his gaze between the smirking woman and the librarian.

“Why don’t you just go to Barnes and Noble and buy a copy?” the woman asks.

“There all sold out,” the man and the librarian chant in unison.

I’m blushing now. Maybe I should intervene. After all, I’m sorta responsible for causing this library brew-ha-ha. I amble over to the counter as humbly as I know how, wishing ACFW would have had a workshop on “Humble Ambling” at the last convention.

“Excuse me,” I say gently. “Maybe I can help. I’m Larry W. Timm, and–”

“You think that’s going to work?” The lady stabs me with her eyes.

“What?” I say as I take a step back.

“You think you can claim to be the best-selling author, Larry W. Timm, and I’m going to hand this book over to you.” She slaps her hand down on the book, pinning it to the counter. For a brief second I expect the librarian to begin the ten-count.

“No…no,” I say with a forced chuckle, “you see, I wrote the book.”

“Oh, that is so pathetic,” the man mutters, shaking his head.

“Sir, I can handle this.” The librarian points to the windows. “You just go back to your table.”

“But…but…”

Mrs. Icy Glare turns the book over, then points to the stamp-sized author’s photo. “You don’t look like the author,” the lady declares, drawing chuckles from the man. Amazing what will draw two people together.

“Well, I–”

“You look fatter,” she adds.

The book-seeking man and the librarian nod.

Unconcerned about ambling, I trudge back to my table and stare at the “T” section. This writing thing isn’t easy.

Maybe I should have said I was Ted Dekker.

A guy can dream…can’t he?

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Writing