Let Fiction Help You Embrace Tension

The Gospel Coalition | 5/22/2019 | Staff
bethtetleybethtetley (Posted by) Level 4
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I’m thankful for Christians doing the hard work of writing or promoting fiction.

I think of fiction writers like Randy Alcorn, who challenges skepticism toward Christian fiction in this refreshing article. I think of non-fiction writers who choose to write novels—Jared C. Wilson, author of Otherworld, and Trevin Wax, author of Clear Winter Nights. Of course, I can’t fail to mention great works of literary criticism like Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well.

Works - Enthusiasm - Fiction - Dedication - Fiction

I’m hopeful these works will inspire not only an increased enthusiasm for reading fiction, but also an increased dedication to writing fiction. By all means, let us read Flannery O’Connor. Let us read Tolkien and Lewis. (Let us also read contemporary works.) But we shouldn’t stop there. Reading great works should compel us toward writing great works.

Many who want to do this stop due to a difficult question: Why do fiction? What problem does it solve? What is its function in the Christian community?

Answers - Questions - Ones - S - D

There are many good answers to these questions, including some great ones by S. D. Smith. But these answers are more helpful for readers of fiction than writers of fiction.

A fixation on what fiction can do reinforces a stifling idea: Fiction is only valuable when it uses narrative to teach us about some non-fiction category—psychology, theology, virtue ethics. If I’m always thinking about what I should say, then I’ll lose sight of how I should say it.

Ourselves - Fiction - Simply - Fiction - Consists

We need to re-orientate ourselves to the how of fiction: Simply put, fiction consists of characters with goals who face tough conflicts. A fixation on the what—the moral, the message, the answer—may tempt me to solve my conflict too quickly, overlook my characterization, or rely on clichés to define characters’ goals.

Fiction is sustained conflict. In this line of thinking, a specifically Christian kind of fiction would be a sustained conflict...
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