f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Fire in the Belly

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Fire in the Belly

This is going to be a mostly rhetorical post because I’m not sure I have any answers to the questions I’m going to ask.

First, you’re going to have to take a look at Mark Bertrand’s post at Master’s Artist from a few days ago. (If it seems like I’ve been quoting Mark a lot lately, that’s because I’m lazy and also he’s not yet figured out how to charge royalty, a loophole I’ll exploit as long as I can.)

If you refuse to read Mark’s post, and really that’s to your detriment, I’ll summarize it. A friend/mentor of Mark’s read his work-in-progress, called it technically perfect but said it lacked heart…the emotion that theoretically fuels great fiction.

To quote:
"What it needs," he said, "is fire."

"Fire?"

"You're not pissed off when you write. You're not grabbing it by the throat."

Mark’s friend didn’t mean to imply that anger is the only fuel for art. But of all the strong emotions, that’s certainly at the top of list.

Here’s the rub:

To what extent does being a “Christian” file down those rough edges that prick and bleed in other writers. And while I know we’re all in agreement that following Christ is no roadmap to a life without suffering or pain, how much does our call to peace, hope, joy, patience, kindness, etc. dull or extinguish our instinct to write from the fire in the belly.

So where do we find the fuel to fire our art? I’m unsure how interested I am in “angry” Christian writing. The things that seem to enrage many in the church these days (including Venezuela, apparently) already fill too many lines in too many books while the stuff that should turn our stomach (Sudan, anyone?) goes generally ignored under the radar. Or, too often, it becomes a novel about the topic rather than the fire that topic ignites.

The easy end answer, I suppose, is that we write out of devotion and love and passion for God. And I do agree that in a number of novels, that is certainly the fuel that burns brightest. But then our vocabulary becomes haltingly limited. And while the fire is there, the art fails.

Is there a combination that works best? What fueled Gilead—hope or sorrow? What fire burns in you?