f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Get Thee to the Discussion Board!

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Monday, March 07, 2005

Get Thee to the Discussion Board!

As is more and more common around here, the real enlightening dialogue is being led by others at the faith*in*fiction discussion board. Do you know about this board? If not, check it out, sign up, and enjoy the interaction.

There was a discussion on the distinctiong between Christian Novelists and Novelists Who Are Christian.

There was some give-and-take critique of writers' ever-important first three pages.

The most recent conversation is about something I said on Friday. To be tacky and quote myself:

But remember, most novels aren't about deep surprise in the plot of a book. Instead our pleasure comes from the emerging details and characterization on the journey through those plots.

Some people are daring to question whether this is, in actuality, you know, correct. Can you imagine the gall? No, seriously, it's a really good discussion, because I think it explores some of the question of why we read, what we're expecting, and then how we turn it back again into our writing.

I think it also explores just how intrinsic characterization becomes in plot. You can't truly do one without the other. To explain a little further what I meant, I think we can look at plot on a couple of levels. Tell me the plot of any mystery. Tell me the plot of any romance. You can. In the most overarching sense, you can because external conflict and plot are pretty well interchangeable. Therefore, in most books the girl and the guy are going to fall in love, the bad guy is going to get caught, and the world is going to be saved.

That said, I definitely agree that we need surprise in HOW we get from major plot point to major plot point. As folks have pointed out, so many of those surprises emerge from our characters. Certainly there can be narrative twists--they are always welcome--but how many freak tornados or random shootings can there be in a story before we begin to use the dreaded word: "contrived."

That's a word I use a lot in reviews. Instead of feeling a story emerges organically, I feel the author's hand pulling the strings. This is contrivance. All stories have bits and pieces that are contrived, but mostly we should let our characters guide our stories.