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Is there such a thing as a Christian ethic of fiction writing, a way to show Christlike love to our characters, and, through them, to our readers?
One evening at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, while we six ladies relaxed in our cabin, Bonnie said to me, "You love the slow turning, don't you?" She'd observed that neither of my novels contained what I would term an "altar call:" a sudden dramatic transformation of a character from a state of doubt to a state of faith.
There are authors who do altar calls well, who draw their characters through a story that builds to a seemingly instant metamorphosis that has in fact developed through the crysalis of a well drawn story. (Bonnie is one of these, as is Latayne, whose Latter Day Cipher released just this month.) But it's true: I love a character who does not eat her salvation whole, but instead digests it bite by bite.
It crossed my mind some time ago that, rather than the Damascus Road experience of the Apostle Paul, I would rather give my readers the desert experience of Hagar the slave woman. I'd read the passage in Genesis 16, about the servant given to Abram by his wife, Sarai, so that he could have a child by her. A familiar story, but this time I stared at the word, "slave," and let myself absorb its meaning. Had anybody asked Hagar if she wanted to bear a child by Abram, to sleep with him? Perhaps not. When Sarai began to resent the girl and said as much to Abram, he replied, "She's your slave. Do what you want with her."
So Sarai mistreated Hagar. And Hagar ran away to the desert, where she met an angel who reassured her, who made promises and predictions, some comforting, some... not so much.
But the thing that allowed her to return to the camp was the new way the angel caused her to understand God. He was no longer the God of Abram. He was, she said, "the God who sees me." Had anybody ever really seen her before?
That's the story I remember when I write my fiction. I remind myself that if I develop my characters well, then some of my readers will see themselves in my story, and perhaps they will feel themselves to be seen, to be understood, as never before.
Please tell us about your experiences. Have you read any novels where a conversion scene was well-written? Do you prefer a sudden surrender, or a slow turning? Have you ever read a novel that made you feel deeply understood?
If you're a novelist, how do you express the ethics of your faith in your fiction? Please share with us how you prefer to write your stories, and why.
We do love your comments.