Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Shouts and Whispers
Lately I've been reading Shouts and Whispers: Twenty-One Writers Speak About Their Writing and Their Faith, edited by Jennifer L. Holberg. It's a candid glimpse into the faith of authors such as Walter Wangerin, Jr., Jan Karon, Bret Lott and Madeleine L'Engle, and it's comforting to know that even seasoned, admired authors deal with angst.
In the chapter titled 'Whispering Hope,' author Doris Betts begins with Flannery O'Connor's quote, "To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures." But whereas O'Connor's larger than life characters and often violent stories make their case, Doris asserts that a whisper can be just as effective in communicating the author's faith.
Most of us fall somewhere on the scale between the shout and the whisper, all the while trying to be true to our calling and not lose our own unique voices. We incorporate bits of what we believe into our writing, and we trust that somewhere there are people who need to hear what we have to say and are open to hearing it because of the distinctive way in which we've said it.
Ms. Betts says it this way: "Most writers set out to tell a story, knowing that who they are and what they believe will whisper its way in just as they do in one's daily life; their personality and beliefs will sink below the word-surface like a stain; they will be inside events the way the peach seed grows inside the peach." (pg. 40).
God can certainly use the overt statement of faith as well as the spiritual truth that is deeply embedded and disguised in story. In my writing, I stand back to see where spiritual insights need to be enhanced or tugged to the surface a bit more, like the dominant thread of a tapestry. To be realistic, the faith element must be organically part of the story, arising from the character's struggles and beliefs and and not viewed as an agenda. That is the type of book that most appeals to me, and the one I am most comfortable writing.
How about you? How do you incorporate your faith into your stories?