Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Use Your Fiction as a Ministry Gift by Ward Tanneberg

Ward Tanneberg
Above her, amongst the trees along the trail, a light bobbed back and forth. She could see it. Someone was running. She could hear it. The light drew near. She could hear his heavy breathing. The footsteps slowed as they came closer to where she lay. And now she knew. Accepting the inevitable. They’re going to kill me!

These are the last lines in the prologue of my newest novel, Redeeming Grace. The very next lines the reader reads are these that open Chapter 1:

“Marry me.” The words floated into her ear on his soft and husky whisper. She caught her breath at their sound, fueled by Brad’s intensity. Like a match to dry kindling.

Juxtaposition. It is when two things are being seen or placed close together with a contrasting effect. When used properly, it can have a powerful effect on the mind of your reader. In this case, the mood dramatically changes from extreme fear to romance and love, in the space of a single sentence.

In writing suspense/thriller fiction, a first prerequisite is that it be entertaining. This motif requires that it be compelling, yet different than a mystery. The fate of a city, a nation, the world is often the prize. Suspense novels offer multiple viewpoints and themes, i.e., techno thriller: The Hunt for Red October; or medical: Coma. They are usually longer books, with strong characterizations and more involved story lines, much like a movie script. RG, the story above for example, is wrapped around a woman in peril.

For writers who are also followers of Jesus, whatever your fictional genre, an additional prerequisite to that of being entertaining is that of an underlying message reflecting God’s character and one’s need of grace, forgiveness and hope. This must open softly, sweetly, like flower petals, or peal back pungently like the tunic and scale leaves of an onion. The entire story must be planted as a whole in the real world of real people.

Too much Christian fiction “preaches” too much. In our longing to offer the message of Jesus to the reader, we forget that we must first build a relationship, tilling the soil of one’s imagination, before planting the seed.

Juxtaposition. In Matthew 13, Jesus becomes the author’s mentor. In story motif, he shows us how to do it. Go there. Drink it in as you might in a Writer’s Conference. Let’s sit awhile with the master storyteller. Listen and learn together. Grow with him.

Then, when you are ready, ask him to use your fiction as a ministry gift.

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Ask Him to use your fiction as a ministry gift. Click to Tweet
[Our writing should be an] underlying message reflecting God’s character. Click to Tweet

About the Author
Ward Tanneberg is a pastor/writer/novelist who has given more than 50 years to evangelism, youth, college and pastoral ministry, including two Pacific Northwest churches and 23 years as the senior pastor at Valley Christian Center in Dublin, CA. In 2008, he was named President/Executive Director of The CASA Network. Ward speaks extensively at 50+ retreats and ministry leadership events in the USA and elsewhere. When at home he meets weekly with a group of business and professional leaders. He and Dixie have 2 children, 3 grandchildren, 4 step-grandchildren and a great grandson.

Redeeming Grace
Redeeming Grace by Ward Tanneberg
Seven years ago, Grace Grafton died in a boating accident while partying on the Georgia, South Carolina coast. Was her death the result of alcohol and drugs or something more sinister? Nobody knows: her body was never recovered. Now years later, a woman reads in disbelief the note addressed to her: Hello Grace, did you think we wouldn’t find you?


Those nine chilling words end Grafton’s self-imposed sanctuary of witness protection. Now she and everyone she loves are in grave danger. Long believed dead, she has a secret that can change the world. She knows the man running for president is guilty of a double murder! But who will believe her?

Other novels by Ward Tanneberg: Without Warning; Vanished; Pursuit. Allegory: Seasons of the Spirit

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for this inspiring blog post. I sometimes get caught up in the suspense plot and forget to let God give me the words. I agree that preaching is not the way to embrace readers.

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  2. Carol Ann
    Thank you for your comment. The words of John Baillie are attached to my computer and meet me there when I write.
    "Let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of thee. Rather from those moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day. Grant that in every hour of (this day) I may stay close to thee."
    It is my reminder to let the story and the message begin with imagination while remaining rooted in His Word. Blessings.
    W

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    1. Thanks for sharing that prayer, Ward (and the post).

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    2. Yes, Ward, that's a great way to start the day. Thanks so much for joining us today and reminding us why we write.

      Great post!

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  3. Grace...forgiveness...hope...
    All things I need on a daily basis, in a large dose. :-)
    Loved this post, Ward, and the prayer. Thank you!

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