Fictional Friday: An Audience of One

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[box type=”shadow”] This week, I’m kicking off a new blog series. Each week (well, most weeks… I like to throw in a twist every once in a while), I’m going to be turning over the reins to a different author to tell their story: what fiction means to them, how they got started, what inspires them. I’m starting with my story today, but please check back! I’ve got a wonderful lineup of guests coming! [/box]
WildSurf_MikeBaird

I didn’t start out intending to write inspirational fiction. At the time I began writing novels and working towards publication over fifteen years ago, the Christian fiction market seemed to be mainly historicals, traditional sweet romances, and the Left Behind series. For a writer of fantasy fiction (and later contemporary romance) there didn’t seem to be a place for my kind of story.

So I spent almost ten years aiming for publication in the general market. I had some good responses on my work and some interest from big-name agents, but for some reason, I couldn’t make it that last step towards representation. Part of it may have been that my writing just wasn’t ready. But I believe a larger part of it had to do with the fact God had very different plans for my writing career.

I was slogging through rewrites on a novel and getting nowhere when the answer came to me in a flash. I wasn’t happy with my work because it was missing something. It had conflict, interesting characters, and decent writing, but it had no heart. Or more properly, it had no soul. My writing was informed by my Christian beliefs, but writing moral characters without addressing their spiritual beliefs left the story lacking. It was that realization—somewhere between a gentle nudge and a shout from heaven—that sent me in the direction of Christian fiction.

As I began to revise my work-in-progress for the inspirational market, I realized that God had a message He wanted me to deliver through my writing. The focus of my stories has never been winning non-believers to Christ, though I’m sure that God could use them for that purpose if He wished. Rather, I wanted to speak to believers going through hard times. I wanted to show the struggle of living a Christian life when it’s inconvenient or downright dangerous. The difficulty of maintaining faith when the horizon looks dark. The unending grace our Savior shows despite the fact we make mistakes—sometimes the same one, over and over again.

I still believe in those messages, but as I’ve written multiple stories and dozens of characters over the last five years, I have realized the audience for those lessons was different than I originally intended.

That audience is me.

It never ceases to amaze me how something I’ve written and completely forgotten will pop out to me while doing an editing pass or a read-through. I might not have seen the personal application at the time I wrote it—perhaps it wasn’t even an issue for me at the time I wrote it—but my own words often come back to challenge me.

It’s at these times that I wonder if God didn’t push me towards writing inspirational fiction for my own spiritual growth as much as others’. I’m sure He knew that in the craziness of juggling a family and a career, sometimes I’d get in over my head and this would be the one sure way to get my attention. After all, it’s pretty hard to argue with yourself, especially when the answer is written in black and white.

And it’s at these times I’m grateful for a God who always meets me where I am, whether it’s in church, through the example of another, or in the pages of a novel.

(This post was originally published as a guest post on www.MaryVee.com.)

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