Aspirations


Yesterday I wrote about setting my sights high, but I’ll be honest—sometimes when I actually think large, it nearly defeats me, what with all the impossibilities of it. I read books by authors I know and I think how beautiful their writing is, how concise, poignant, vivid, inviting.

My writing is … different. For starters, I write fantasy. My stories aren’t dark or angst driven, and I don’t dwell on the grittiness of life. But neither is the Christian message overt. Although I know I’m not alone, I feel stuck in no man’s land.

Thing is, God has a wonderful way of bringing encouragement. Today I turned on the radio and listened to a message from my former pastor—about God and the impossible.

Then I read a chapter from C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy and came across this great passage. He was talking about humor in Chesterton’s essays, but the last line in this quote has broader application, I think.

His humor was of the kind which I like best – not “jokes” imbedded in the page like currants in a cake, still less (what I cannot endure), a general tone of flippancy and jocularity, but the humor which is not in any way separable from the argument but is rather (as Aristotle would say) the “bloom” on dialectic itself. The sword glitters not because the swordsman set out to make it glitter but because he is fighting for his life and therefore moving it very quickly. (emphasis mine)

Wow! The bloom, the glitter is a by-product of the essential. I’ve written in this space in the past about writing a Big story, and here I mentioned thinking large. But perhaps the size of a story or concept is glitter. I’m not sure. Editors and some writing instructors refer to a “high concept.” Is that something a writer should try for, or will that be present naturally if a writer is “fighting for his life”?

Of course that line I emphasized in the quote also has implications for Christian fiction. I can hear the anti-theme crowd now, claiming the message of a story is the glitter. To that I respond, Say what?

The theme is the heart of a story. That’s why it shouldn’t be left exposed. And it needs to be tucked into the story in order to connect to the arteries and veins of character, plot and setting, for, though it is fragile, it provides the life-blood to all the rest of it.

Back to Lewis’s metaphor, theme is the thing for which we writers put our lives on the line. The glitter? Perhaps that’s the art that will result if we fight well.

Published in: on February 14, 2008 at 11:42 am  Comments (1)  
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