Why “Meaningful” in Suspense? Six Reasons
Recently, a family member told me how much she liked the tagline “Meaning Suspense” I chose for my website. She asked me where I got the idea. While explaining my heart, I realized that others may also wonder about the two important words that not only define the novels I like to write but also embody my philosophy as a Christian author.
Which is what exactly? I’m glad you asked. Let me answer that question by painting a picture in your mind.
Imagine a crowd from all walks of life and worldviews crammed into the largest auditorium on the planet. Now, imagine you’ve been given a microphone and a request to tell them the most amazing story you can imagine.
You have exactly one hour to speak. And no more. When the time’s up, you may never have opportunity to speak to these people again. If you’ve got only one shot, whatever you say better be important, right?
Assuming God has enabled you to tell stories, stilled those knocking knees, and given you time to prepare, what would you say?
Would you simply entertain? Or would you entertain while seeking to do something more?
Why Meaningful in Suspense?
1. Because of who I am in Christ. Christ has redeemed my life, and whatever I do—especially my writing—should bring glory to Him (1 Cor. 10:31). I’m God’s slave. I have been bought with a price and am not my own. What God wants is more important than what I want. What does God want? The answer leads us to #2.
2. Because God has given me a message to tell the world. A gospel message about Jesus Christ and His love. Conveying this message is not optional for the believer.
If anyone has an important message to deliver to the world, it should be Christian writers. But if our stories are only entertaining, I fear we have neglected our responsibility to our God.
Does that mean every story must include a conversion scene? I’m not saying that. But there are more creative ways to weave in the gospel message and spiritual truths.
I can hear my critics. “Now hold on. We’re not supposed to preach in Christian fiction.” My Bible tells me just the opposite (Matt: 28:19-20). In fact, every novel I’ve read (secular or sacred) has conveyed a message of some kind—from The Lord of the Rings to The Hunger Games. Why can we not communicate a message (with care and subtlety) that counts without using a preachy tone? (Tone, not message, is really the issue, isn’t it?)
3. Because everything is going to burn. According to the Bible, every book in your local library is eventually going up in flames. And don’t forget Kindles and all those e-book files. What will escape the flames and last forever? God, God’s people, and God’s Word.
If Christian writers want to write something of eternal value that makes a difference, God’s truth should permeate their stories (whether by encouraging other believers or calling the lost sheep to the Shepherd). Life is too short to write empty, meaningless stories.
Does that mean Christian writers can never write only a fun, entertaining story once in a while? No. But if all we write is entertainment, what eternal value is there?
4. Because God will hold me accountable. If God will hold us accountable for every word we speak (Matt. 12:36), He’ll certainly hold Christian novelists accountable for the words they use and the message they convey. How can we who have the greatest message of all be silent about it?
5 Because stories can do more. Look at the example of Jesus Christ. He could have merely provided an entertaining story to surpass any tale ever written, but He chose to do more. The ultimate Storyteller carefully wove spiritual truths into His tales (parables). What an example for us! Why can’t we/shouldn’t we weave spiritual truths into our stories?
6. Because the world looks to us for answers. Remember 9/11. In the wake of unspeakable tragedy, the world turned to God . . . at least for a short time. When your neighbors suffer tragedy, they may look to you for answers. What will you tell them?
We have no idea who will read our novels and may be searching for answers. Let’s make every word count.
Bottom line? Without eternal value, novels provide entertainment but achieve little more than filling paper with words and putting money in the pockets of publishers and authors. It’s business. And only business.
My argument is that Christian authors, because of the God they serve, are obligated to pursue more than that. Dare I say it? Message is more important than sales, but I think a Christian novelist can achieve both.
Why “meaningful” in suspense? Because I want my stories to count for something more.
I don’t pretend to write for everyone, but I hope to target Christians readers who like a little more meaning in their suspense novels. Frankly, so much of what I see in the Christian marketplace is anemic in the area of message (I suppose to attract more readers). I hope to counter novels gun-shy on message and provide an alternative.
What do you think? Do you care about message in the novels you read? Are you turned off by Christian novels that preach?
- 10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #9
- 10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #10
Love your ‘bottom line.’ It’s the purpose for my reading and blogging.
Thanks, Linda. Nice to hear from you.
Surely people named Linda aren’t the only ones reading this! LOL You probably can guess that I am a firm believer in a message. I’m fine with it being subtle, but there definitely needs to be one. And a story can be well written, suspenseful, nail-biting, and/or entertaining, but if the message doesn’t line up with Scripture, I’m going to call it out in my review. I have read a few books that are Christian fiction that I would really place in the secular humanism/religion category. Message is so very important.
On the other hand, I am turned off by preachy novels. There is at least one author I refuse to read because the conversations and situations are so unrealistically saccharine. I have never heard anyone – not even Jesus! – talk the way those characters do. It’s a total turn-off.
Enjoyed your post!
Nice to hear from you, Linda. Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, there needs to be a balance. Solid message but not heavy handed and definitely not saccharine. I’d be interested in knowing which authors you feel do message well. Thanks.
I, “call it out” too, Linda, in my reviews. Love suspense, romance, etc., but has to have the message.
I appreciate this, Adam. All of these reasons are great ones for writing meaningful fiction. I agree with what Linda said as well.
great post Adam, I agree 100%
Thanks, Mark. Nice to hear from you.
Really??? I don’t believe the God I serve and Love wants every book I read to be message driven. I just don’t see Him that way. He created us, and I believe He wants us to enjoy life. So if a Christian book is fun and entertaining I believe He takes joy in us enjoying it.
I mean do we not laugh at Christian comedians like Tim Higgians and Mark Lowery???
When I read a Christian novel I want the main character to display in his or her actions that Christ Jesus’ Spirit lives in them. Another words the dialogue should not just tell me they are a Christian. I want them to live their lives in action that they are a Christian. Maybe through some of the book the main character had been living as if “it did not matter.” I know many people who believe, even Christians who profess belief in Jesus, yet they feel they are “right in their own eyes” by their lifestyle. But, I would like to see the character during the course of the book deepen their faith and grow in Christ.
I totally agree with you. I like my characters to have flaws but grow through those flaws during the course of the story. That’s the way the Christian life is. We all have our own unique struggles, but God doesn’t give up on us, and we should be growing all the time. A lot of novel technique books talk about the importance of character transformation by the end of the story. This idea fits in perfectly with a Christian novel that shows a character struggling, growing, and changing by the end of the story. I like your thoughts here. Thanks for writing.
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What a sad life you must live. I mean if everything must have a “message.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for fun and enjoyment. It’s like turning everything into an issue, or a debate. No thanks! And I don’t believe that is what Christ was about. Have fun with that!
Thanks for your thoughts, except that’s not what I said. I didn’t say everything has to have message. What I did say is that if everything an author writes lacks message, then there won’t be any eternal value. I’m all for fun, but life is too short only to be about having fun and entertainment. God has given us a commission, and it’s the meaning God gives us to communicate that will have eternal value. Thanks for writing.
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