Monday, August 16, 2010

Who's Telling The Truth?

When I read Christian fiction, I've noticed a tendency to wonder which character is speaking or exemplifying the author's worldview.

I don't remember ever questioning the motives of secular authors. With secular books I look for universal truths, but I don't expect them to be presented with intention. That's an odd thing to say, I suppose. I just realized it's an odd thing to think. I expect a secular author to tell a compelling story, but I don't expect him to radically change my understanding of Life, the Universe and Everything.
This bias may be the result of worshipping at the bookshelf of C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald. I seem to believe a Christian author should tell a true story, i.e., a story that expresses some universal truth.

I also seem to expect that truth to come from a particular character, usually the hero.

I don't think I'm alone in this expectation. In the critiques I've received for Star of Justice from authors and non-authors I've gotten questions about "What really happened?," "Are you trying to say...?" or "So, who's the Christian here?"

Ready for the irony? I expect something from others I don't do myself. I cannot point to a single character in Star of Justice who embodies my entire set of beliefs as a Christian. No single character has a complete understanding of God as He exists in the story, let alone a complete understanding of what really happens during the course of the book. Each character has pieces of truth, but none of them has it all.

As an author, I wanted to answer the most pressing questions, but leave room for speculation, too. Maybe I'm the only person in the world who thinks about a book after I've read it. Maybe. At the rate some of my new writer friends turn out reviews I don't know they would have time for processing a book.

(I don't mean that as a slam. Maybe they process faster than I do. Maybe they don't need to process. I have issues with mastery. Part of my OCD. I want to know the why as well as the what. I know why things happen in my stories, whether I state it or not. I want to have those answers to the obscure question at the book-signing.)

There seems to be a tendency in Christian writing (or possibly Christian assumptions about Christian writing) to make the main character The Hero, the good guy. Technically, the main character is the Protagonist. The Protagonist spends the most time in the spotlight but is not necessarily the good guy. The word itself (while being remarkably difficult to type quickly) is neutral.

Caissa is a Protagonist, not a Hero. She does follow the Hero's Journey as outlined by Keven Newsome of The New Author's Fellowship, but I would not classify her as a Hero in the traditional sense. I would not expect any reader to find universal truths about God spilling out of her mouth. Truths about human nature? Absolutely. About God? Not so much.

She also does not overtly express my beliefs about God. She might express my beliefs about what some people believe about God, but that's not the same thing.

I suppose my conclusion is to relax and let the story unfold. I should allow the characters to be themselves and not little projections of the author.  I'll be thinking about the story for days afterward anyway. Why worry upfront?

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