Someone smart once described fiction as a mirror that the writer holds up in an attempt to let the reader see him or herself. So true. What I long for is deeper than just an entertaining experience for my reader (don’t get me wrong, I’m all for entertaining…in fact, if the reader isn’t entertained, we’ve lost). I want my reader to form an emotional bond with the protagonist and experience emotion themselves. Vicariously. And in the process, I want them to see a reflection of themselves.
The reader sees a character in a novel experiencing a challenge or conflict. If the emotional bond is strong, the reader will quickly make the next jump: if this character can overcome, so can I!
And so we delve to plunge our protagonists into misery. Deep, complex problems that we would so abhor in our own lives, but love in our fiction. We want vicarious conflict, not real pain!
As I thought about this, I thought about my own emotional bonds to my characters. Honestly, the themes in my novels grow straight from the areas that God seems to be working into my own soul. My protagonists are often driven. So am I. My characters struggle with trying to be accepted on the basis of performance instead of grace. My characters need to learn grace. Well, no surprise, I do too. If I am struggling to find healing of a soul wound, you can bet that eventually, when I’ve healed enough to process it on paper, my characters will find similar healing.
I heard once that some psychiatrists go into the field in order to assist themselves in working through their own issues. Could it be that we writers do the same? I doubt if I will find anyone willing to admit that this is the main reason, but certainly the Holy Spirit’s dealings in our personal lives makes wonderful fodder for plots.
Now, the last thing I want is for my readers to take this thought to an uncomfortable place: just because my characters (particularly my antagonists) have evil, murderous thoughts…don’t imagine that I do too!
Readers, I want you to see yourself in my books. So take up the mirror of fiction and dream that you can overcome.
At the same time, I’m giving you a little glimpse into my own soul. You might say that the mirror becomes window every now and then.
Have a wonderful, grace-filled holiday season,