GUEST: Jessica Everingham's When You Scream, Make It Loud
Do you want to inject raw passion in your stories? Are you looking for a deeper spiritual element in your book? Are you searching for a new way to touch readers?
Then be prepared to get angry.
Angry at what? I hear you ask. Well, there’s plenty of options — the declining state of society, the risks new technologies pose to today’s youth, the evils of…whatever.
There’s certainly room for those topics in fiction. But I’m thinking of something that will stretch you as a person and reach a hidden corner of your readers’ hearts. I’m thinking that you should get angry at God. Or the church. Anything labeled Christian.
“Hold on!” I hear you say. “Isn’t this a Christian site? Isn’t this chick a Christian writer? Doesn’t she love God?”
Yes, yes and yes. Just hold onto your hymnals and let me explain.
If you’re like me, there’s parts of God you don’t understand. There could also be parts of the church that
send you to the brink of insanity seem less than ideal. You don’t say
those things out loud for fear of being condemned as a heretic, but still…
they’re there. What would happen if you explored those issues in fiction?
a. World War Three would begin, signaling the start of the Apocalypse.
b. The time-space continuum would collapse.
c. Pigs would fly.
d. You would have to deal with it.
Congratulations folks, the answer is D. By bringing up your doubts, fears and hurts you may reveal a struggle that other people go through too. You could make your characters relatable. You could find that God can handle those scandalous thoughts. And you could grow.
For me, that issue is the church.
To read some books, (and don’t get me wrong, they’re great books,) you’d think that every Christian wife is a casserole-cooking saint. Every pastor is so holy, you wonder if they ever pass wind like the rest of us mortals. Each church is a big extended family, full of hugs and kittens and smiles.
But that hasn’t always been my experience.
My childhood church split two years ago, after decades of squabbling. I have a friend whose feelings toward church are still affected by a selfish youth pastor on a serious power trip. I’ve seen elders arguing after a sermon, Christian families feuding and leaders failing to lead. All the while they claim to be better than the big bad world out there. I can feel my blood pressure rising already.
Yet God calls the church His Bride. He created it, loves it, and asks us to be a part of it. So that’s a conflict I have to deal with.
But in fiction, there’s not much for me to relate to. The churches there are so… perfect. No disrespect to those authors; I love a good sweet Christian romance and have read them by the shelf-full. But still, I sensed a gap. So I decided to fill it.
The books I write show the dark side of Christian Religion. (I say ‘religion’ because that is where the problem lies; in the man-made aspect, not the God part.) I rip off the holy façade and scream about it from the rooftops. I make the fictional situation way worse than anything I’ve ever faced in my life. I multiply the emotions – the betrayal, the anger, the unforgiveness — that I’ve only experienced myself in small doses. Then I wait to see what God will do with it. And I throw in a heap of romance and humor to keep things interesting. J
I hope that dragging my issues into the light will spark up a neuron in another reader’s brain. They’ll think, “Hey, that happened to me!” And then we’ll work through it together.
Ripping off that band aid doesn’t just help your readers; it will be good for you, too. You’ll be forced to identify things you haven’t dealt with. You’ll have to admit they’re bothering you. And you’ll have to take it to God and thrash it out — repeatedly. It takes some soul-searching to get your main character to that satisfactory ending.
Your writing will also benefit. All the experts say to write from your heart; mine your emotions and use them to fuel what your characters are feeling. Now, if you’re swapping surface-level irritations for darkest-corner-of-your-heart conflicts, I’m pretty sure those emotions will benefit.
So, put some thought into it. What is that issue for you? Don’t hide these things and pretend Christianville is A-OK. Turn the spotlight on that issue, then attack the rot at the source and get some genuine healing happening.
And when you scream, make it loud.
About the Author:
Jessica Everingham is a 23 year-old Australian writer. She is addicted to any form of storytelling — books, TV and movies — and loves creating her own (one-day-to-be-published) novels. When she’s not writing about romance and Jesus, she’s blogging or working as an eLearning training content developer. She has also been a journalist, boarding school mistress, dairy maid and shoe saleswoman.
Check out her blog at www.jessicaeveringham.com or connect with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jessicaeveringhamwriting) or Twitter @JessEveringham.
Lead picture courtesy of CreationSwap, by Matt Gruber.