While non-fiction is probably the most direct way of addressing issues of importance, my personal preference, for both reading and writing, uses fiction as the vehicle.
A few months ago I read a book called Then She Was Born, written by Cristiano Gentili and translated into English by Lori Hetherington. I am often asked to review books and in this case, I received an unsolicited copy. I don’t always have the time or desire to read the books I receive, but something inside nudged me to try this book. I’m glad I did for it impacted me profoundly. The book is about the plight of African albinos living and struggling to overcome deeply rooted superstitions, even in today’s ‘modern’ world. I had no idea. Although I’m sure I would have been sympathetic to the cause had I read an article in a magazine, hearing it from the point of view of a person going through it brought the issue up close and personal.
That’s what good fiction is supposed to do: transport us into the lives of the characters in such a way that we feel what they feel; experience what they experience. As a Christian writer, I see huge opportunities to spread the gospel in an unobtrusive way while highlighting some of the struggles common to both Christians and non-Christians. I don’t need to get on a soapbox to talk about drug and alcohol abuse, pornography, the occult, or sexual promiscuity. I just let my characters struggle with these issues. Hopefully, but not always, they come out on the other side with the help of the Lord and other caring individuals. Sometimes things don’t get wrapped up quite so neatly, however, but I think there are lessons to be learned no matter what the outcome.
I’ve heard it said that you should write what you know. I’m not sure I totally agree. I wouldn’t want to have to go through some of the abuse that my characters have had to and I don’t need to murder someone in order to be able to write about it authentically! I think this is where writing from a place of personal passion comes in. My goal is to expose the darkness and shine the light of Jesus on whatever situation my characters find themselves in. In the end, it is up to them how they choose to respond.
I’ve taken some criticism about the use of ‘edgy’ content in my work. My characters have pretty much done it all: drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, pornography, dabbling in the occult, promiscuous sex – not to mention lying, cheating, stealing, greed, doubt… the list goes on. Some are believers while involved in these activities, some aren’t. For me, God’s grace and the redemptive power of the cross is everything – for those who don’t know Him and even more for those who do and mess up. While I do not feel comfortable writing graphic scenes (most of the aforementioned occurs ‘off camera’) I don’t try to hide the fact that it takes place. God’s power shines brightest against the darkness.
Perhaps part of my desire to write what I do stems from my own experiences. I came to the Lord as a young adult, having dabbled in some of the seedier side of life before crossing over to the light. My husband and I have also been in ministry for many years and we’ve seen some pretty dark things, even among believers. The truth is, all have fallen short of the glory of God. To pretend that hot button issues aren’t relevant in the church is to bury one’s head in the sand. All is not always as it seems.
The good news is, nobody is too far gone for God. Hallelujah! That’s why I will continue to write the kind of fiction that I feel called to write. God’s redemptive power can shine, even in fiction.
This post originally appeared on the Inscribe Professional Blog on June 29, 2017.