A comment I made last week sparked a thought that I believe might be worth pursuing a little further on its own. I don’t know if this is the point I’ve been meandering toward since July or not! I’ve noticed a significant similarity between Christians as authors and their secular counterparts. I think it might also explain some of the cognitive dissonance some of my readers have been experiencing with the idea of a writer who is uniquely Christian without also being stereotypical or evangelistic.
While I do think that this can be pressed too far, in short, as authors we all essentially construct our narratives from the palates of our accumulated life experience. The difference is that a Christian author has, in theory, a unique set of impressive colors on his/her palate that come from a unique worldview. These are, for a serious believer, their prime colors, and in theory form the basis for understanding everything else on their palate. Therefore, it is almost inevitable that they will show through in their finished product in some way.
Put simply, imagination rarely (perhaps never) exists entirely on it own. This is especially true of an imagination expansive enough to construct entirely new worlds. Each author is a mix of distinctive life experiences and reading, and these experiences–first hand (in the case of the former) or vicariously (in the case of the latter)–form the “stuff” of their creative primordial soup. In the case of J. R. R. Tolkien, for instance, it was the massive amount of European myth, legend, and language he had absorbed. For C. S. Lewis, it was a much broader collection of mythology and lore from many different traditions. Pieces of J. K. Rowling’s life are evident throughout the Potter series, from something as simple as a Ford Anglia to something as profound as her statements on truth and love. In each case, ideas combined with the catalyst of each person’s imaginative personality to create worlds, characters, and stories that were at the same time derivative and completely original. The very same can be said of any author, and students of that author can usually tell you what his/her particular influences are.
So, in that sense, there isn’t a drastic difference in method from Christians to non-Christians. Christians aren’t given one fictional “rubric” (I hate that word…) while non-Christians work from another. The singular “stuff” from which a Christian begins will affect the result of their work, if they truly believe it strongly enough to give it a prominent place on their palates, but, to a notable extent, all authors start from the same place–themselves.
That said, I also think that we as a society have a tendency to arbitrarily partition off that part of ourselves, and to pretend that we should prevent certain influences from showing through in our finished product. Secular authors specifically avoid certain “religious” themes because they are expected to do so, even if those themes are a part of their larger experience. Christians who are concerned with their secular reception will often self-segregate; they will either only paint in certain colors that they know only a certain audience will appreciate or they will intentionally shut themselves off from that portion of their experience that they, in theory, believe gives meaning and color to the rest.
And that, I find, both unfair and counterproductive. As Christians, we should seek to express ourselves using our whole palate–take up all of the colors we’ve been granted by our experience.
Does that make us unique? Certainly. But I don’t think we have any business being ashamed of that fact.
Next Week: A break from the series–Defending Lewis on the Fall of Susan Pevensie….
Other Posts in the Christian as Author Series
- The Cesspool Of Christian Fiction
- What? Me Christian?
- A Holistic Approach
- “Good Fiction” or “Good Christian Fiction?”
- Of Christian Authors and Christian Pizza Makers
- What does it look like?
- Tolkien and the Rebellion of Melkor
- Marketing or Pigeonholing?
- C. S. Lewis and the Basis of Narnia
An old mansion lies forgotten, tucked away in the North Georgia mountains. Within are portals to other places and times.
When fourteen-year-old Megan O’Reily is sent to live with her inscrutable “uncle” Warner at Waverly Hall for an entire year, she stumbles upon a world devastated by plague and kept under the brutal control of an maniacal dictator. When she cannot return to earth, Meg is forced to make some difficult decisions. Who and what she encounters on her journey will mark her forever and may lead to the freedom of an entire race.
“With captivating detail, in-depth characters, and an intense, magical plot, Melton’s first book in the Waverly Hall series packs a serious punch! …keeps you enthralled until the end, waiting impatiently for the next book.”
~M.B. Weston, radio host and author of the Elysian Chronicles
“Brian Melton’s book is based on one of the most gripping fantasy concepts I’ve encountered in the last several years. Combine the mystery of Lewis’s Wood Between the Worlds with the allure of your grandfather’s attic and the aura of a grand old country mansion, add some characters as compelling as the setting, stir in cleverly disguised (and sometimes not disguised at all!) allusions to the canon of Western literature – oh! and the actual adventure hasn’t even started yet. You can’t wait until it does.”
~Donald T. Williams, author of Stars Through the Clouds and Mere Humanity