The Risk Of Writing Well


I’ve written extensively to support my belief that writers need to include—even hone—themes in fiction. As I said yesterday, if a writer doesn’t say something meaningful, then why would that story be around tomorrow, let alone fifty years from now?

Crafting a theme well, however, requires an author to write to a purpose without announcing it.

The easiest way I have of identifying poor handling of thematic material is by determining whether the story requires the passage or whether I’m writing those lines, that scene, for the readers. (This actually works for description, too).

In other words, am I writing down to my readers by spelling out the important information I don’t want them to miss?

Interestingly, readers will interact with a story more deeply if they must ferret out meaning for themselves. So the more I bring forward what I think is important, the less likely readers are to engage with that idea in a deep and meaningful way.

However, I remember when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out, I began hearing of groups of pagans who were holding Tolkien’s work up as their bible. They celebrated him as they engaged in earth rites.

How horrific, I thought, to have a work intended to bring honor to God actually misused, becoming fuel in the hands of those who oppose Him. In time I came to believe that was the risk an author must take.

Crafting theme well is just another of the many obstacles that can trip up a writer. Is it too blatant, too reader-directed? If so, many will put the book down. Is it too covert, too nuanced? If so, many will miss the main point of the story.

Of late I’ve had another thought as well. Allusions to spiritual things or subtle themesl may accomplish what God wishes though that accomplishment may be different from what I wish.

In my best-case-scenario imagination, I’d wish for readers to pick up my books (of course, that means they’d be published, so you see how this is my imagination 😆 ), read them, and see God more clearly, desire to know Him more deeply, be challenged to surrender to Him more completely.

But what if readers respond to my books by rejecting God? What if, instead of drawing near to God, they harden their hearts?

Somehow it’s not quite the grandiose picture I’d dreamed up, but shouldn’t I let God determine how He wants to use what is His?

I suppose that’s another risk writers must take.

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 5:04 pm  Comments (4)  
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