My post Shouting into the Void a few weeks ago got a bunch of interesting responses. I’ve been processing them ever since. To sum up:
I observed that in Christian fiction, God is silent. All the other monsters, gods, and mythical creatures talk, though, whether it’s Medusa, a dwarf, or Percy Jackson’s deity problems.
This actually flies in the face of the Bible itself, where God scoffs at the other gods, who are fake and made of stone and don’t talk.
But we’re writing fiction, right? If we want to have God or a talking lion or a couple of ravens that give prophetic dreams, we can write it. We’re writing FICTION.
Ah, but that’s where things get sticky. It’s all fiction until it’s non-fiction.
Let me explain.
Christians aren’t the only ones who launch into sermons in the middle of their books. Eoin Colfer waxes eloquent about the plight of the environment in Every. Single. Artemis Fowl book. Eventually you just start skimming when you see the rant coming. Heinlein spends the majority of a chapter in the Rolling Stones praising that worm in the mud that we all evolved from.
We’ve all encountered this. There’s nothing like reading along, enjoying a good story, when suddenly the author wallops you with their political views. Even if you happen to agree with them, it’s still annoying. If you don’t agree with them, sometimes you put that book down and move on to a different author.
The intrusion of non-fiction into the fictive dream is annoying and unnecessary. It’s the author saying, “My story’s not strong enough to show you the truth of my message, so I’m going to lecture you directly.”
Christians do this with God. As soon as He’s mentioned, we’ve stepped out of fiction into non-fiction. It’s not a story anymore–it’s apologetics. And often it’s poorly-written apologetics. If the author had stuck to fiction and used illustrations and different kinds of characters (even–GASP–gods) to prove their point, it would be a stronger story.
The sad thing is, usually they’re telling a redemption story. We LOVE redemption stories. Don’t we all wish that Loki would join Thor and fight for the good guys? As a kid, I wanted Catwoman to join Batman SO BADLY.
The good vampire and the good werewolf fill our TV shows and movies. The story of a bad person or creature who changed their ways and now fight on the side of Good: we eat it up. We love redemption, whether it’s self-improvement or one person saving another from certain death.
But this is where Christians stumble. I’ve complained before about authors who mess up the Hero’s Journey formula. Instead of the hero going on his quest and becoming a man, the hero is enfeebled by having to be saved over and over by the Jesus figure. It’s poor storytelling. It’s apologetics intruding into the fiction.
So, while we have all the elements of grand myth, we spoil it with too much non-fiction.