Question to Christian Novelist Francine Rivers:
Do you ever feel a tension between communicating a message and writing evocative fiction? That is, as Christians we do have a message to share, yet good fiction demands we not get too preachy or “tell” more than “show.” How do you think Christian novelists should communicate their message?
Francine Rivers’ Response:
The Lord sees our hearts and minds. He knows our struggles as writers. Yet, I think it’s true that Christian writers have often softened the emotions and ultimately their stories in fear of offending someone. No matter how careful we are in what we write and how we write it, someone is always going to be offended. We can’t write for the few who run in fear of facing real life issues. We have to tackle those issues head on.
Jesus did. He confronted sin. He transformed shattered lives. The hope of every artist is to be evocative, to be honest, to reveal truth. God is Truth, and Jesus is the only answer to man’s bent nature. We have to get rid of the smiling facade and get down to the condition of our hearts. Readers want to be entertained, but they also want to be challenged. When writers can be completely honest about the battles we fight within ourselves, we will not only take back the arts, we will shine the light on the only path to salvation and victory–Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Walking the Line
I chose to write this week’s reading response on the question put to Francine Rivers here because of how well it relates to the class discussions of the past week. In her response, Francine Rivers – one of the most widely recognized Christian novelists in America – gives some valuable insight on the balance needed in Christian fiction of sharing a message and producing a good novel. I found her views well-articulated, and very helpful to me as a writer. Sometimes, particularly when writing fiction, it becomes difficult to divine the line that separates preach-y-ness from God-centered-ness. In the same way, it is very easy to become so absorbed in creating a good story, and forget that, as a believer, my work should reflect the hope that I own in Christ. So…how can we tell where the line lies?
Francine Rivers answers this question very succinctly. While she acknowledges the difficulties that every writer deals with, she gently and firmly reminds her readers of the one, the only thing that should matter to any true believer – Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. So simple an answer, and yet so complex. A no-brainer, really…but convicting all the same. When I think about it, my conscience reproaches me for even considering the claims of “good fiction” as contending with the claims of the message of Christ in my writing. What are books, compared with the surpassing riches of our Lord? What kind of literature is truly necessary beside the Word of God?
Please do not misunderstand me. I enjoy my novels just as much as the next girl, and perhaps more. I believe that fiction, particularly Christian fiction, plays an important role in helping us to understand all kinds of things, from history to Scripture to characters. My point is this: if my very life and hope lie in Christ alone, why would I place the world’s standard of “good fiction” above sharing this hope and life with others? While the gospel need not figure directly in every story that I create, my writing should always reflect the light of my Redeemer. Because apart from Christ, no tale is worth telling.