Friday, November 15, 2019

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction by Christina Coryell

Christina Coryell

As writers, we work hard to create believable characters, motivations, and outcomes. When it comes to our God and stories of faith, should the unbelievable have a place as well? Author Christina Coryell shares her personal guidelines. ~ Dawn

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t. – Mark Twain

I’ve always been a Missouri girl, born and raised. Although my building contractor husband and I moved a lot when we married (something like 7 times in the first 8 years), I’ve never lived more than an hour away from the home where I grew up. Since we rarely stayed in one place long enough to get to know anyone, during those early married years, we didn’t interact much with our neighbors.

After all that moving around, we ended up living in one house for about a decade. I couldn’t have chosen better neighbors if I’d hand-picked them, and it was an ideal neighborhood. There were loads of kids around, and most days I could find several of them in my front yard. The boy who lived next door played with my kids so much, he jokingly started calling me “Mom” when he stepped into the house. His mother and I walked around the neighborhood together on Halloween, and they even took care of our dog when we went away on the weekends.

A couple of years went by, and those neighbors went out of state to visit family. It wasn’t until that point in time that we realized we shared a greater connection than we could have imagined. When she was a little girl, my next-door neighbor had been my aunt’s next-door neighbor. In Ohio. 600 miles away.

A story like that can feel difficult to chance when it comes to fiction. With millions of people in those 600 miles between Ohio and my house, the probability of the two of us becoming neighbors was statistically minuscule. Face to face in the real world, talking about it might earn a response of, “Wow, that’s crazy.” Put the same exact scenario in a made-for-TV movie, and I can see it playing in my head: “Oh, of COURSE she ends up living next to the exact same family. Where else would she live? I bet that bearded guy driving her taxi is actually Santa Claus.”

Like it or not, sometimes our minds draw parameters around fiction. We’re willing to entertain pretty much anything…as long as it fits within certain boundaries of plausibility. If writing honest, true-to-life fiction means walking a tightrope between the believable and the unbelievable, there has to be a balance, right? While I’m not one for following hard-set rules, over time I’ve tried to stick to these overarching guidelines when I write:

  1. Write with Confidence. I’m not talking about self-assuredness in my abilities, but rather a belief in my story. If someone comes to me and says, “Character A wouldn’t respond that way,” I can’t have a check in my gut about whether he would or wouldn’t. Either I’m able to stand behind what I’ve written one hundred percent, or the editing process isn’t finished.
  2. Know When to Listen. Feedback comes a mile a minute in this business. If I took every opinion I’d ever received to heart, I’d be working on revision 430 of my first novel, likely undoing all the revisions requested on versions 2 through 429. When my mama tells me something doesn’t seem right, though, I take a hard look. While I’m taking that hard look, if I get the aforementioned check in my gut, I know she’s right. (Side note: I have the best Mom in the world, who happens to be an avid reader. For clarification purposes, though, I’m not saying that everyone should run their novels past their mamas. Even though I do. 😊)
  3. Is it God or Fairy Dust? When something a little more extraordinary makes it into my novel, it has to matter in the larger scheme of things. Life is often wild and crazy and unpredictable. If my character moves across three state lines and ends up living beside the exact same family she lived beside before, she’s going to realize that the Creator of the Universe is invested in her life. At the end of the day, even if it seems a little improbable, it’s nothing for the God of the impossible.

Is it God or Fairy Dust? via @c_tinacoryell #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters
If writing honest, true-to-life fiction means walking a tightrope between the believable and the unbelievable, there has to be a balance, right? via @c_tinacoryell #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters

Written in the Stars
Written in the Stars

Roundabout these parts, dirt roads don’t just get you from point A to point B. They intersect to create a maze of life often missed when outsiders drive through a sleepy town. The number on the population sign might seem insignificant, but a few short steps from the beaten path, there’s more than meets the eye.

Look a little closer… That sleek out-of-town convertible is bringing former pageant queen Brooke Langdon back into town for the first time in a decade. She’s dragging nothing with her but the hyphen in her last name. Gatlin Moore is running his tractor along the fence line, spending his days keeping up his parents’ farm instead of living out his dreams in Nashville. The sheriff is pulling into Holly Christian’s driveway, preparing to tell her that her life’s about to crumble. And Hunter Pearce, the guy everyone calls when they need something fixed? He’s racing to Holly’s place too, wondering if things are too broken to put back together.

Welcome to Hope Canyon. This is our backroads story.

ACFW QIP author Christina Coryell lives with her husband and children in southwest Missouri. She’s published ten novels and several other stories since 2014, but she’s never written a novel at a desk. Cold metal bleachers during baseball practice, in the back hatch of an SUV, and sitting on a trampoline—she’s written in those places. A mom has to do what a mom has to do. Some days she dreams of writing at a desk. Maybe a treadmill desk would be an easier transition. Her novels have spanned the genres of women’s fiction, southern fiction, and romantic comedy, but mostly she aims to write authentic characters.

Written in the Stars is a nod to the place where she grew up—a candid look at the rural mid-south.

Connect with Christina at

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