Friday, November 25, 2016

Spiritual Undercurrents, Unspoken Truths – by Christine



Some of my favorite artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh (Post Impressionist), captured their images without detail but with bold colors. I liken this to the subtle ways authors need to convey the spiritual undertones of a novel without overtly stating those truths.

The following are some of my favorite tools (with examples below).
  • Symbols
  • Metaphors
  • Subtext
  • Simile
  • Setting
SYMBOL: A thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract.
The sari used in the front cover of
Shadowed in Silk

In Shadowed in Silk, a silk sari covering a woman's face is the symbol. Firstly, the sari represents the way the Indian people despair in British rule; they feel invisible like second-class citizens (even in their own country).
In addition, my main character Abby must hide herself in the guise of an Indian women and dons a sari, covering her face with its veil. The covering of Abby’s face represents the subliminal direction that Abby feels invisible to those who should love her, including God. Towards the end of the book, when Abby unveils her face she shows without words that she now understands the biblical foundation of the entire book.
Abby’s story is reminiscent of Hagar in the Old Testament when Hagar cried out in the desert, “You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me.”

METAPHOR: A figure of speech that refers, for rhetorical effect, to one thing by mentioning another thing. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities. Where a simile compares two items, a metaphor directly equates them, and does not use “like” or “as” as does a simile. One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor is the “All the world’s a stage.” From Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

Captured by MoonlightIn my favorite scene, Eshana uses the following metaphor; I will sing your praises, Lord. Though You have dressed me in funeral clothes, I will sing your praises with joy.  
In this book, Eshana shows that dying to our own agenda is necessary to obey God and accomplish His bidding. I used this metaphor in one of my favorite scenes when Eshana is imprisoned by her fanatical Hindu uncle for living joyfully as a Christian instead of wearing the coarse white funereal sari of a Hindu widow.

In Hindu custom (not their Veda scriptures) there is a tradition where widows are to be treated as something dead, ugly, something to be ostracized. Eshana’s uncle has her pretty, joyful clothes torn from her body when he imprisons her behind bars in an unused part of his palace.   
Eshana prays above—without me preaching it—that most of the time the Lord will have us go through a little funeral of our own, dying to our dreams so that He can lead us into something greater of His choice for our lives.


SUBTEXT: The meaning beneath the dialogue; what the speaker really means, though not saying it directly. This kind of miscommunication can reveal deeper truths.

The spiritual theme of Sofi’sBridge is that we must shine through the work He puts in our hands. And it’s not always easy. Obstacles hit us at every side. Here is one of my favorite uses of subtexts.

In this scene Sofi has just had a confrontation with Charles, her deceased father’s business partner, who has been fraudulently stealing from the family business and worse. Sofi’s fragile, younger sister Trina encourages Sofi to keep on fighting for the work God created her for by saying the following:

Trina stood and slipped her arm through Sofi’s, watching Charles’s car drive out of sight. Her chin lifted, but her voice matched Sofi’s weariness. “Don’t let him scare you, Sofi. The enemy’s all talk. Just talk.”

Did you catch the subtext?

They are both staring out at Charles driving off. He is their enemy, but he is not their only enemy or their greatest. It’s subtle, but I hope the reader sees that in this scene the real and greatest enemy for everyone is Satan, who tries to convince us we are incapable of doing the work God gave us to do, as in I Peter when Satan is described as a roaring lion.

SIMILE : figure of speech that makes a direct comparison, showing similarities between two different things. Unlike a metaphor, a simile draws resemblance with the help of the words “like” or “as”.
In Veiled at Midnight I used this simile to show how Cam recognizes his spiritual condition. There is also a little bit of subtext in this simile.
"The truth hit him like an artillery barrage. His beloved ayah saw clear through to his soul. He was just like his wretch of a father."
And the subtext in the above quote: Cam is not just like his immediate father, but that his condition is that of all mankind.
SETTING: The description of the setting around a spiritual conversation can present an image full of suggestion.

Veiled atMidnight – Romans 8:38-39 is the foundation of this book. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing that happens in this world, even as our country is torn in two, even if we have an addiction that imprisons us—nothing can separate us from the love of God.

The following setting conveys this truth.

Deep in the glass the swirling amber turned to flames, and Cam felt himself falling…falling into the fire of his cremation, as if he saw his future. This was the way he would die in India, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Cam lifted the glass up to rest its rim against his lips, and let the sensation of falling take him to his grave if need be. A bird sang. A moth fluttered against the lampshade, and Cam cursed the distraction. Outside the open window in the darkened garden, a bird trilled again.

The setting helps us to see that no matter how much Cam feels he is losing his battle with alcoholism and his feat that it separates him from God, that God comes to him as gently as a moth fluttering against the window. God is calling him as sweetly as a bird outside. The fact that God is speaking to him is not overtly spoken but conveyed through the setting.
~~~


In each book that I have written so far, the spiritual themes create the foundation of the story. All else comes afterward as I plot, develop characters, etcetera. In every single scene I try to show the spiritual themes , the undercurrents, every chance I get in even my choice of colors in the sunset, or the touch of a hand.

My advice is to try to convey something delicate, something small in every chapter to keep this undercurrent streaming.  
Christine

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Six Keys to Writing Spritual Content -- by Christine



1. The Hook: Even a spiritual story needs a good hook to get things started. Your spiritual story needs an intriguing question and a clear goal before you even start to plot.

One of Rachel’s favorite is The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. The author introduces the reader Father Emilio, a man who narrowly misses sainthood. Lying in a hospital bed, this Christian man is sullen, uncommunicative and a suspect in a horrendous crime.

Starting off this fictional novel, the reader wonders how could this be happening to such a devout Christian? This is the hook for readers who are looking for a good spiritual read. We must know how this man came to this place, and will his faith eventually save him.

2. Set the Foundation for Spiritual Resolution:  It’s true, real life is stranger than fiction. Though miracles and sudden moments of salvation happen in real life, in fiction they feel somewhat contrived. These “miraculous moments” may actually hurt the people we hope to encourage. God doesn’t answer every prayer the way we want it. Many of us find our healing only after many, many years. Sometimes not until we step into heaven.

While developing your novel, build solid, believable steps toward a spiritual conclusion that will satisfy those of weaker faith. Build that strong structure in your novel in every chapter. Your story must earn its ending. When the ending comes, then the reader will feel as if it couldn’t possible have worked out any other way.
I found this to be true in my own life, which is shown in my non-fiction memoir Finding Sarah Finding Me. I wrote with brutal honesty about my failure as a Christian after the reunion with my birth-daughter. By the end of the book, readers will see that I had to walk that dark road of despair so that God could actually work in my life and bring me the healing I needed.

3. Deeper themes: We read so much of the same themes over and over in Christian literature, the characters accepting the gospel or asking, “Where is God when it hurts?” Good themes. But there are so many more spiritual themes to dig for.
Remember that your novel will most likely be read by Christians. So, you’ll be preaching largely to the choir. Dig for those themes that speak to the struggles and goals the average Christian is working through Here’s a few questions by Rachel:
  • What does it mean to live in the light of eternity?
  • How does prayer shape us?
  • How do you love your enemy?
  • What does a character look like who has lived out the gospel daily?
And so on. When that rare moment occurs and a Non-Christian reads your book, those themes might just speak more deeply to them. That true-life struggle of what a Christian deals with may help the gospel message to make sense to them.

One of my favorite spiritual themes was in my novel Capturedby Moonlight, where one of the main characters struggled with the fact that God seemed to be removing her from the position she thought was the very work He had called her to. It was a theme that I had worked through, when I had to ask myself if my calling to be a Christian Writer was really God’s will? Or was it simply my agenda?

4. Fairness and Truth: As a Christian, I’m committed to loving others as God loves them. This includes people from other religions. A theologian once said that we need to compare the best of Christianity with the best of other religions.

As an author I have taken great delight in this, especially in my trilogy Twilight of the British Raj. Let’s be fair. If we writers are going to look at the worst of--for eg--Islam, Buddhism, or atheism, we must also look at the worst of Christianity. We also need to look at the good in these other religions. In our novels, I think the worst thing we can do is take a soapbox attitude, shaking our fist in the air and shouting “Our Way is the Only Way, and Everybody Else is Wrong.”
The very people who hope to reach with the truth about Jesus Christ will never hear that message because our “rhetoric” drowns it out. 

Let’s face it: Many atheists have arrived at their worldview based on careful thought, however misguided we may believe them to be. Most Muslims make wonderful citizens and neighbors. And so on. We Christians must admit that many gossips and control freaks fill our churches. Not all, thank the Lord, but we do have them.
I did this in my trilogy. I loved showing the good and the bad in all faiths. I did this because I want my readers, Christian and Non-Christian to simply look at the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ, as the Savior they need.

5. Show the Sacrifice: Both Rachel and I love the example of A Tale of Two Cities. Or think of the heartfelt sacrifices in the story of the Titanic. Sacrifice is the core of Christian life, so it must be in our Christian fiction. An act of utter courage such as Hadassah going willingly to the Roman arena in Voice in the Wind, or something more ordinary like Will laying down his pride to admit the ways he wronged his Amish relatives in Levi’s Will is the kind of sacrifice our stories need.

My favorite sacrifice in my novels is in Shadowed in Silk, where Indian Christian Miriam lays down her life to save others during the historical massacre of Indian people by a British officer. Or Geoff admitting he was a somewhat pious Christian with a slightly judgmental attitude toward Abby.

6. Beauty: We writers can take for granted that the resolution is all our readers want. I love a good plot, but don’t forget to show beauty. Why does the reader want resolution in a novel? Because they have a deep-seated need to feel the beauty of God’s truth. An inner desire to see Him.
Author Davis Bunn shows how a prayer that has been prayed for over two thousand years comes alive when his modern character prays it in Book of Dreams, as if the leaves overhead were chanting the prayer with the character. Stephen Lawhead describes an old saint lit from the inside out with God’s love in Merlin. Little moments like these show the beauty of God’s ways. These moments clarify the spiritual goal throughout your book.
Christine

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