Monday, August 31, 2015

Finding Your Writing Voice, Part Two by Annette M. Irby

woman reading*

Last time, we talked about our passion and how that relates with our writing voice. This week, let’s talk about how to write our message into our fiction.

Proceed with Caution

Our passion for the message can drive us, but it can also get us into trouble. (Zeal makes for great preachers, but it can turn off readers.)

If, when we're writing fiction, we put too much of a slant into our fiction and we lose our focus on the fact that fiction should be entertaining first and foremost, we might lose readership. And as we know here at Seriously Write, it's all about the reader. Sometimes we're so passionate about our message that we begin to preach at our audience. And there's really no room for that, except in sermon writing. wink)

Surprised by the Message

So how do we find the balance between including our message and overdoing it? That's a great question. So far in my fiction projects, I’ve found that I stumble upon my message depending on the story I’m writing. In fact, if I have an agenda beforehand and try to include a specific message, the story sometimes resists coming together. But when I’ve just continued to write (I’m more SOTP than plotter), other related ideas come through than what I had originally intended, including a solid message.

Perhaps the best way to figure out how to share our message in our writing is to consider what not to do. Here’s a list of tips for including your message in your fiction writing:

  1. Avoid preaching. :) We’ve covered that one.
  2. Don’t lose sight of the fact that fiction must be geared toward entertainment first.
  3. Be subtle. Let the message come through the story. Some have called this “organic writing” because the story lends itself toward a message. Letting the message come through the story helps avoid that contrived feeling (in this context)
  4. Don’t be afraid to change themes/messages as the story unfolds. It’s possible God’s trying to teach you something as you’re writing that particular manuscript and that message, that lesson, will come through—if it’s fitting, and if we let it.
  5. (Related to #4 above) Let God lead. Purposeful storytelling was His idea. He can help us with ours if we let Him.

How about You?

So, what about you? What have you found that works in regards to intentionally including your message without alienating your reader?

Write on, friends!


Her Nerdy Cowboy

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle? Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. 

Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children, and who reads to her of pirate romance. Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?


Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby has three published books and 
runs her own freelance editing business, AMI Editing
See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.

Photo credit: “Young Woman Reading” by nuchylee at

Friday, August 28, 2015

Parabolic Tales for the Ages by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around, him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying…” (Matthew 13:1-3; NIV, emphasis added). Jesus goes on to tell the crowds about a farmer sowing seed: The Parable of The Sower. He follows this up with other parables: The Weeds, The Mustard Seed, The Yeast, The Hidden Treasure, The Pearl, and The Net.

After telling The Parable of the Sower, the disciples came up to him and asked why he spoke to the crowds in parables (v. 10). Jesus’ answer is very telling:

“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them…This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’ In them is filled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ (Matthew 13:11, 13-15; cf. Ezekiel 12:2; Isaiah 6:9-10; emphasis added).

Jesus tells the disciples that they are blessed because they do have eyes that see and ears that hear (v. 16).

A stark contrast to the crowds.

As storytellers in our modern society, it seems the pattern for writing fiction has been established for God’s people, and was done so by our Lord Himself. When we create a story, no matter what the setting, no matter who is involved, no matter the time period, the story should “reveal the kingdom” or explain what “the kingdom of God is like.”

Now, it doesn’t have to be allegorical. Every single name doesn’t have to have a double meaning or mystical root (See Pilgrim’s Progress for reference). Nor do your characters have to be fictionalized caricatures of real people in the Bible (e.g., The Lion in C. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series being Jesus; “Aslan” being the Turkish word for “Lion”). Even though these kinds of stories and techniques have their place, one size does not fit all. And neither does the story have to take on ALL the aspects of the world in order to have a real impact (e.g., profanity, etc.). Jesus managed to use tell parables, using worldly images like birds and flowers and gold and pearls and hate and greed and power and corruption without soiling the language itself.

Sometimes, however, your story may deal more with a theological truth/concept than a person, place, or Biblical passage. My first book, The Serpent’s Grasp, asks the question, “What is truth? In the world of science, can truth be found?” My second book, 30 Days Hath Revenge, begins to delve into the question of “What is true peace? In a world that cries out for peace like in the days of Jeremiah, can politics, military might, or economic clout bring about true peace, or is there something more to it?”

As a fiction writer, our job is to dive deep into these biblical passages and truths and bring forth a story the crowds can begin to understand. If Jesus only spoke to the crowds in parables, then shouldn’t that be our pattern, too (see Matthew 13:34)? We are the keys God uses to open up the doors of their hearts. After that, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to break down the door and enter in.

If we write fiction solely for the Christian community, we’re missing out on so much.* Jesus explained the parables to the disciples only when they were dull in understanding. However, the parables were never intended for them. I liken it to our publishing world today. Fiction serves as the parables. That’s why “preachy fiction” never flies very well. Jesus never got preachy with his parables for good reason. Those hearing the stories needed the concepts to come down to their level of spiritual understanding.

In the same vein, non-fiction is for the disciples. This style tends to get into the nitty-gritty details of a spiritual truth. This is when Jesus explains things to us, has us stop, pause, reread a page, so our understanding can increase so we don’t have to keep stopping him and ask, “Can you explain that to us, please” (see Matthew 13:36)?

Does that mean a believer can’t enjoy a good fiction story? Of course not. Does that mean an unbeliever should never pick up a non-fiction book on some biblical passage or truth and read it? Please, say, “No!” You and I both know God can use anything to reach a person’s heart for the first time.

Apparently, though, the norm is as follows: The stories, the parables, the fiction is intended for those who “have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people” (Ezekiel 12:2).

And those were Jesus’ words. Not mine.

So, may our stories be for the lost as well.

Especially in this ever-darkening world.

*Could this be a reason why Christian fiction is falling on such hard times? Parables solely for Christians doesn’t follow Jesus’ model, does it?

A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.

Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.

But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years experience as an administrator at the high school level.

A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:  
Kevin’s Educational Blog:   
Facebook: C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page
Twitter: @CKevinThompson
Goodreads: C. Kevin Thompson