f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: CSSCA: Day 1 – Beginning or End?

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

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

CSSCA: Day 1 – Beginning or End?

CSSCA? That’d be Conversion Short Story Contest Aftermath. And this is Day 1.

Over the next weeks (And yes it’ll be weeks, because I’m posting less and there’s a lot to talk about) we’re going to explore some of the things that came up while I read your 76 conversion short stories.

Some of these things are going to be presented as neutral observations. Some of these things are going to be generalized critiques. A few will be generalized praises. Please bear in mind that if I bring something up that is in your story, I’m not talking about YOUR story specifically. That’s the whole point. It’s your story and her story and his story. And a bunch others, too.


You’ll remember when I launched the contest, I was pretty vague about what I actually wanted in the stories. In fact, here’s the single rule about content:

I have no definition for what a conversion story is, but we're talking about some Christian salvific experience. It also needs to be fiction, no autobiography or memoir.

There were two primary ways you seemed to take this note. You either wrote what I’m going to call a “traditional” conversion story. Or you took my lack of specific definition as leeway to write a “non-traditional” story. And we’re going to get to these breakdowns a lot in future days.

During my judging of the stories I read an article about Brian McClaren in Leadership journals’ online presence. It was a slightly muddied article about the worldview of the emergent church, but I was intrigued by one of the tenants supposedly upheld by this “new” conversation.

Conversion is accepted as a journey and not merely a point of decision.
The stories, as a whole, reflected the exact opposite of this statement. The strong majority of stories made the moment of conversion the climactic or concluding scene of story. In many cases, this moment was even captured in the final, resounding words. A powerful concluding sentence to capture this moment of glory.

But that’s what you asked for, you may say.

Well, yes, I suppose I did. Calling it a “conversion story” makes it seem like it needs to be about a “conversion.” But after all this I think that’s what’s at debate here. Or should be up for debate. Just what is a conversion? Is it that single moment when we “believe”? What if there isn’t a moment? What if there’s a moment and then a week of doubt and then a gentle reassurance?

Why, I’m really asking, was conversion always the end of the story?

And what happens when we making it the beginning of the story?

Really, I’m not trying to pick on you. A lot of it is my fault for calling this thing a “conversion story contest” when it should have been a “story-with-a-conversion-in-it contest.” I had no idea what I was going to get with these stories and very many of them moved me. But, no matter how much I fought it, that rising climax to the grand realization—well it couldn’t help but feel “done” after the 60th time.

And that’s what you’re facing in the publishing world, too. Much of this has been “done” before. Editors see a lot of the “same-old, same-old.”

So your choices are:

1. Do you something that hasn’t been “done”.
2. Do something that’s been “done” so well that it doesn’t matter.