This is the third and final day of the CSFF Blog Tour for September. The featured novel is a joint venture of Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper: Venom and Song, second book of The Berinfell Prophecies and sequel to Curse of the Spider King.
Beside me is a lined piece of paper torn from a spiral notebook and covered in pencil-scribbled notes, stars and exes and arrows, crossed-out deletions and crammed-in additions, ideas and thoughts for discussion during the tour. I could talk about themes or story structure or similarities between our real-world history and that of Allyra, but my brain's just not leaning in any of those directions.
(It is, however, enjoying the DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition, which I haven't watched in a good long while.)
Lately, I've stumbled across or been engaged in conversations about "Christian fiction": Although it is categorized by genre, how can fiction be anything but fiction? Is "Christian fiction" considered "Christian" because of its content, or because of its author? What about fiction written by Christian authors and/or with Christian themes or worldview, but published and marketed in a secular venue?
It's old news, but Christian fiction has a reputation (and, in many cases, deservedly so) for preachiness; predictability or a tendency toward the formulaic; shallow thought or forced emotion (characters not being allowed to think, emote, or react as real people might); and poor craft.
As another writer said recently, the Bible was the only book written at God's direction. The rest of us? We have to work at it.
A writerly aside: I'd forgotten that Chawna Schroeder (one of our CSFF Blog Tour participants) had also discussed this topic on her blog recently -- and I'd even left a ranting comment, how's that for memory? She has some good stuff to say, so do go check it out. And please disregard my apparent loss of spelling ability in the comment!
It's an arrogant and lazy writer who thinks his or her words are perfect from the moment of inception.
Our work should be excellent -- not just so it can be "as good as" or "better than" the work of secular authors, but because our excellence honors God. We should spur one another toward excellence, toward a bettering of our craft. In this, there is no separation of the sacred and the profane -- in the sense that the story is the sacred, and the craft is the profane -- because good craft helps us tell a better story. And good craft gives us credibility. Who cares what your message is if you're not communicating it in such a way that it will be received?
And that's another debate: In Christian fiction, which comes first -- the message or the story? I say story, because who picks up a novel expecting to read a sermon? Let any "message" be organic, a natural part of the story. Let characters be as real as possible. Let the outcome of events turn as they may. Let there be surprises and ugliness and sin and doubt and mistakes. Don't try to force everything to fit a preplanned message.
The purpose of the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour is to promote speculative works by Christian authors, and Venom and Song is certainly that. In it, the Elves -- "the good guys" -- have a dark secret in their history, and it has a direct effect on everything that happens in the story's present.
Who among us hasn't made a mistake that changed life from that moment onward? How many of us are always selfless? Always good? Always acting for the good of others? The Elves aren't ethereal creatures of unalloyed goodness. They possess conflicting opinions, they don't have all the answers, they don't do everything right. The teenage Lords of Berinfell are learning as they go. In imperfection is room for change, for growth, essential to effective characters and, therefore, effective stories.
And mistakes leave room for redemption.
For other stops on the tour, please visit Monday's post, scroll to the end, and click on any of the names in the list there.
In conjunction with the CSSF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.