Tuesday, July 12, 2016

When Life Imitates Art by Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu
Some authors, like Joel Rosenberg, are known for their novels that seem to be “ripped from the headlines.”

And historic events, such as 9-1-1 and the sinking of the Titanic, provide great fodder for stories that plumb the depths of human emotion.

But what’s a writer to do when her soon-to-be-released novel resembles traumatic current events? How close is too close?

I found myself wondering such things this weekend after two officer-involved shootings and the senseless slaughter of five police officers in Dallas. My latest novel includes a scene of a protest following the police shooting of a male African American teenager.

In writing the scene, my intent had nothing to do with racial profiling or the “Black Lives Matter” movement. I simply wanted to reveal my characters’ reactions and emotions by using a realistic event. Still, recent events leave me wondering if the story might be too close to the truth. Will readers find it too painful, or think I’ve treated the event with less compassion than it deserves?

In the end—unless my publisher deems otherwise—I have to trust my writerly instincts and God. I pray that my story will touch the lives of readers and provide some new insight into similar situations.

Because, after all, fiction is supposed to reflect life and reveal truth, right? Author Steven James says, “Good fiction holds up a mirror for readers to better see themselves.”

When have you found current events becoming too similar to your stories? Do you ever fear that your fiction will seem insensitive, or do you try to use your writing as a way of exploring emotions and helping readers better understand their own lives?

About the Author
Marie Wells Coutu’s new novel, The Secret Heart, will be released in late August from Write Integrity Press. Follow Marie on Amazon.com to be notified when it becomes available. The Secret Heart is the third book in the Mended Vessels series. Books in the series are contemporary re-imaginings of the stories of biblical women, including Esther and the woman at the well.

Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. Thirsting for More, the second book in the series, was a finalist in the 2016 Selah Awards Contest. You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook page (Author Marie Wells Coutu), at her website (MarieWellsCoutu.com), or follow her on Twitter (@mwcoutu).

Marie retired after 15 years with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and she and her husband now divide their time between Florida and Iowa.

The Secret Heart

Beautiful Shawna Moore married Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee, after a whirlwind romance, only six weeks following her first husband’s death in Iraq. Now, she wonders if the governor loved her at all or only hoped to avoid a scandal.

An investigative reporter—and friend of Shawna’s—is asking questions. If he discovers the truth about Shawna’s baby, Hunter’s chances for reelection could be ruined. But keeping the secret is destroying their marriage. Will Shawna convince Hunter to choose his family and drop out of politics, or will he continue to put his career first?

The Secret Heart, will be released in late August from Write Integrity Press.


  1. Marie, I remember when Tom Clancy's movie version of SUM OF ALL FEARS was scheduled for release on 2001. They had to postpone it six months because of 9/11. When writing true-to-life stories, it's one thing to be realistic, but quite another to be a blatant jerk in an insensitive way. The writing itself will differentiate the author as either one or the other in most people's eyes. Especially rationall folks. However, in our hyper-sensitive culture, where truth is circumvented for agendas, writing about hot topics will always make a reader choose sides. When I wrote THE SERPENT'S GRASP, I knew it would be a polarizing book based on the topic of evolution. Those who would agree with me would like it (and they did). Those who disagreed with me labeled it a "fundamentalist diatribe." Yet, when I write these things, I always think of Jesus. He never shied away from the hot topics. Just ask the Pharisees and Sadducees. The people who are entrenched in their beliefs, whether it be political, theological, etc., are not the ones you probably are trying to reach anyway. In those cases, you're either reaching to the choir or throwing pearls before swine. It's the people in the middle, the ones on the eternal fence, who are your target, in hopes that some may see "the light" and start counting the cost, opening a door for the Holy Spirit to enter.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post! This topic is exactly what I've been mulling over in my mind as I contemplate writing a non-fiction book on what will probably prove to be a very polarizing book.

    1. Kevin, I had forgotten about the Tom Clancy book; that is a wonderful example. Thank you for your comments, especially about remembering who we are writing for--or Who we are writing for! Bless you as you work on your next book.

    2. Hi Marie, I took out a piece of dialogue, because I thought it might hurt someone who dealt with suicide. I'm glad I did.


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