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Monday, March 2, 2015

Why it's Hard to Write Good Fiction for Christians

Hi, friends! Getting a little extra vulnerable today. Not in an over-share sort of way. But in a way that makes me wear my heart and my words on my sleeve. Open to interpretation. Open to criticism. If you'll indulge.

For the last year and a half I've been working on a fictional manuscript set in Dallas, Texas. It's full of Dr. Pepper, the hum of journalist drones typing in a newsroom, cherry pie, Golden Retrievers, forgiveness and baseball.

It's called (at the moment) How to Win a Breakup, and follows the story of Jordan Jacobs as she struggles to stay ahead of the social game after her fiance dumps her.

That's the condensed version, at least ;)

But it's also a little bit about a faith journey. A wrestling with the job-market for 20-somethings, death and moving on from painful relationships. With boyfriends, and mothers, and with God.

The characters aren't perfect. They swear on occasion. They smoke (but only when they drink). They make out with inappropriate people. They don't respond to an altar call. They don't lead Bible studies. And they don't pray. At least, not all the time.

They're messy. They're selfish. They have a lot of flaws; many of which I want to correct in my own life and walk with God.

So here's the thing: I'm struggling with serving two masters: the truth of the world and the Truth that Christ has to share. And though I'm a total "pantser" (that's "by-the-seat-of-my-pants" for the non-writers out there) when it comes to plot, I don't foresee Jordan re-dedicating her life to the Lord at an altar call or memorizing scripture.

But is it "Christian fiction" if its written by a Christian author who's just trying to be honest? Is it Christian fiction if one of the antagonists uses the Lord's name in vain in the very first line of dialogue? Even if it's to create an atmosphere of immediate disdain for the character? Even if it helps along the conflict between the two characters?

I'm not sure.

I'm navigating all of this while trying to make the story work. I'd love for you all to be a part of the discussion and for the mission not to settle for contrived Christian art. This blog, Prodigal Sister, in and of itself is dedicated to redeeming stories that lead others home.

With that being said: here are the first 300 words of How to Win a Breakup.

“How in God’s name did we wind up with so many toaster ovens?”

Jared kicked a few white blossoms of tissue paper out from under his brown loafers as he breezed into our apartment. For the last six months of our engagement, we could practically measure our lives in mason jars, burlap cloth and yards of tangled twinkle lights. We were due for a call from the producers of Hoarders any minute now.

Jared’s eyes breezed over the growing mound of engagement gifts stacked by the door. He picked up the toaster oven box and held it in front of me, accusingly. “How many is this now?”

“Hard to say…” I sat with my legs crossed on the living room floor, iPad in my lap, searching the itemized gift list growing on our Exel sheet. If only I’d been this organized in college. I’d have been a Rhode’s Scholar.

“That brings us up to six.”

“Jesus Christ. How much toast do people think a newlywed couple needs?”

“There must be something wrong with our registry.” I glanced at my watch. “Target’s closed by now, but maybe you could call tomorrow and–”

Jared gave me a sharp look.

“Okay...I’ll call tomorrow.” I pulled up the “do-before-I do!” checklist on my wedding planning app and added it to the roster; a notification was kind enough to inform me that I was slipping down the white wedding rabbit hole:

You have sixty-two overdue tasks.

Jared shrugged off the strap of his briefcase and walked into the kitchen, undoubtedly to grab one of our monogrammed glasses for his nightly rum and coke. Funny, I didn’t notice him complaining about the gift situation when it was the overstock of his bar glasses that were coming in. But if one of your core values is winning arguments, don’t date a lawyer.

And certainly don’t ever promise to marry one.

photo credit: A slice of Cherry Pie via photopin (license)

photo credit: SPECIAL SET – 16x hi-res Neourban Hipster Office: via photopin (license)


Laurie Tomlinson said...

Love everything about this post! So true.

Personally I'm a big fan of fiction that shows that gospel isn't for people who fit in a neat box. Because it's not really about what people do or don't do; it's about what HE did <3

Excellent teaser. Can't wait to read more.

Brett W. Tubbs said...

Thanks, sistah! You somehow figured out how to do it! I can't wait for the world to see :)

Sarah Beth said...

They smoke (but only when they drink). Made me laugh out loud.

I can't wait to read this book.

Brett W. Tubbs said...

Thanks Sarah! You'll be the first :) And yes, we all know one of those, right? haha

Anonymous said...

For me, there's much point in being a Christian without being all in. Not that our actions will ever be prefect, but the desire to please God should shine through in life. Based on the previous blog posts I've seen, that's where your heart is too - so please let this show through in Jordan's life too (or the life of another character in the book).

I grew up Christian, but made a lot of poor choices in my early 20s that only led to worry, stress & restlessness. I saw articles referencing half-hearted Christians as validation for my actions and proof that nobody in today's society lives 100% for Christ.

About 1.5 years ago (currently 27) I realized I could no longer compartmentalize my faith from my actions, mainly because of two close friends I made who were excited about their faith, committed to serving and positively impacting their community, and regularly seeking ways to grow their faith.

You have so much wisdom, talent, and insight that it would be a shame if the motivation behind living all out for Christ didn't shine through in this book - you totally have the potential to impact your readers!

All that being said, I love the first 300 words you shared! Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

*not much point, sorry!

Calina Fonali said...

I struggle with this as well, but you know what? It's the stories of imperfect people and their struggles that I like to read about. That's why we all need Christ. :)

I love your blog!

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