Karen

Writing That is Powerful, Not Preachy!

 

dog_forgive_me_face

Thanks to Shirley Buxton for asking in the comments of my blog on writing that sings, “Can someone help me understand how to show spirituality without being preachy?”

Why, yes, Shirley, I can. At least, I can tell you my perspective.

It’s the difference between telling people how they ought to live, and showing them. It’s not spouting Scripture when someone is hurt or struggling, but coming alongside them, sitting with them, holding them, asking how you can help. It’s entering into their struggle and being Christ to them, acting as he would.

Think about it. When Jesus shared spiritual truths with the crowds around him, how did he do it? He showed those truths through a story. He didn’t say, “You faithless fools, God tells us to use our talents for him, not withhold them!” No, he told a story… “A man was going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them…”

Whether you’re writing nonfiction or fiction, the way to communicate spiritual truths is to show it, not tell it.

Consider the following paragraph:

Forgiving in marriage is not an option. It’s a command, straight from Jesus. If your spouse had done or said something that hurt you, forgive them. If you’ve done or said something that hurt your spouse, ask to be forgiven. You don’t have a choice. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” And a verse or so later, he says: ““If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” If you’re a Christian and you aren’t forgiving your spouse, you are in the wrong. And God won’t forgive you. It’s as simple as that.

Okay, feel beat over the head a bit? Yeah, me, too, and I wrote it! That paragraph is preaching. Telling you how you’re supposed to behave, and that you’ll regret it if you don’t. All of which may be true, but not many are drawn to right living by that kind of presentation of truth. Now, try this…

I’d only been married a few days when I made a shattering discovery: the man I married, the man I saw as a knight in shining armor, could do and say things that hurt me! It didn’t matter whether or not he’d intended to hurt me, all that mattered was he’d done so. And then I made an even more shattering discovery: Forgiving your spouse is hard. When I said I do, I knew he’d be there to shelter and protect me, to love me unconditionally. He wasn’t supposed to hurt me!

It’s hard, isn’t it, letting go of expectations, loving someone for who they are, warts and all? But here’s the thing. When we don’t forgive someone, we put them—and ourselves—in a kind of prison. I found that out all those years ago after nursing a hurt for days. I was miserable. Don was miserable. Even the poor dogs were miserable! Life at the Ball household was not much fun. Then, one evening, God tapped me on the shoulder and reminded that—ahem!—Don was not the only imperfect human in the marriage. And that love wasn’t about not hurting each other, it was about forgiving and surrendering my hurts to Him. When I finally did that, oh! the freedom that washed over me! My heart was light, our home was warm again, and I swore I could fly.

Friends, don’t let hurts in marriage fester. Don’t let them weigh you down and imprison you. Let them go. Forgive. And know the beauty of God’s freedom, not just in your marriage, but in your heart.

When you show truth in your writing, you draw people into the experience. They live it with you or with your characters, and they learn alongside you. In the process, they may even change.

So writing with power means you don’t hit people over the head with Scriptures, you don’t give a sermon, you don’t stick in a conversion scene unless it’s a natural outgrowth of the story. Writing with power means you show what’s right, through story or illustration, through your character’s journey.

So that’s my take. Now, how about you all? What do you think makes the difference between preachy writing and powerful writing?

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The Core of Writing Well

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I’m trying to learn how to make latte art. I’ve got the moves down…kinda. Hey, I’m a racquetball player—was, in fact, one of the top players in college—so I can do wrist action like a pro. But guess what I discovered? Having the …

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Chapters: How Long is Too Long?

I’ve had a number of people ask me lately how long their chapters should be. My answer has been: “As long as they need to be.” Now, it would be nice if I could give folks the “industry-standard” answer: “Chapters should be no less than xx and no longer than …

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Open Your Eyes! There is Creativity Everywhere

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll have seen my recent pictures of the flowers that have been blooming like crazy in my yard. It happened so fast! One day the ground seemed dead and unyielding, the next green shoots popped up, and then… WHAM!https://youtu.be/-EbwAc8dkWI Flowers and flowering shrubs and …

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Two Important Ingredients for Success

  I’ll never forget the day, just after church, when a friend pulled me aside and said, “My son can’t find a job and he needs to make some money fast. So he’s going to write a book. Any advice for him?” Yeah, well, the advice I had wasn’t for him, it …

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What Will You Give Up for Lent?

Believe it or not, Easter is just around the corner. Which means something else is almost upon us:

Lent.

I love the idea of a 40-day preparation for Easter, of refocusing our hearts and minds to spend more time in prayer and contemplation of what Christ has done for us. And I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of “giving up” something for those 40 days. Even more intriguing—and sometimes amusing–is what people choose to surrender. For example:

Watching TV
Playing computer games
Chocolate (now there’s a sacrifice!)
Going online
Sugar
Caffeine (just shoot me now!)
Wearing shoes

And on and on it goes. (In fact, check out the websites at the end of this blog that share the multitudes of things folks give up for this season.) But I want to suggest something a bit different for those of us who make our living in publishing. How about giving up something really tough? How about giving up something like:

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Spring is Here!

A picture of a beautiful flower I took this morning in our garden.

It started two weeks ago. Little green sprouts poking up through the frozen, barren ground. Ground that, thanks to a winter of record-breaking cold, was so hard just a month ago that not even my shovel made a dent in it. So you can imagine my delight when I spotted those bits of green pushing their way through that same, dead earth. I checked them every day, watching and waiting. Because I knew what was coming. And sure enough, last week those hardy green shoots boasted buds. With unseasonable frosts in the forecast, I worried they wouldn’t make it. But hallelujah! Not only did they survive, but this week they exploded in beautiful blossoms. Now, instead of empty ground, crocuses and miniature irises paint my yard with purple and yellow. And today, the daffodils and jonquils joined in, bringing a smile to my face and heart with the news:

Spring is here!

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Why I Read Romance Novels

Valentine’s Day is on its way, and that got me to thinking about that four-letter word we all use with impunity:

LOVE.

What a powerful word, one so full of meaning I could write a dozen blogs about it and still not exhaust the depth and breadth of all it entails. I’m grateful for love. For God’s love. For my hubby’s love. For my family’s love. For my doggies’ love. Love has blessed me more than I could ever deserve. But then, isn’t that the very nature of love—that it comes to us regardless of our so-called “worth.” And one area where I most enjoy the blessing of love is in writing. Whether poetry or novels, nonfiction or essays, I’m not afraid to admit that I love reading about love. And I especially enjoy–get ready for it–romance novels!

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First Lines of Best-selling Books: How Many Can You Guess?

It’s 71 degrees outside as I write this, the sun is shining for the first day in weeks, and there’s a gentle breeze tickling the suddenly budding tree branches outside my office window. As you can probably imagine, I’m having a LOT of trouble concentrating on work.  So I thought I’d share something fun with you.

I always wonder how much of the books we love actually stays with us. So let’s do a test. I’m going to list a series of first lines from best-selling books in the Christian market. Immediately following will be three best-selling titles. Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to figure out, without cheating of course, which book those first lines belong to. (answers are at the end)

Ready? Here we go!

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Knowing Discouragement’s End

A guest blog by Mesu Andrews

Mark Lowry is one of my favorite comedians. I heard one of his performances many years ago, and he quoted a single, profound phrase found 457 times in the King James Bible: “It came to pass…”

That’s it. That’s all.

It came…to pass.

And then he challenged the audience to remember those words the next time they faced an impossible situation, the depths of discouragement, or “a bout of constipation.” (Lowry’s words, not mine.)

I’ve needed that reminder during my writing journey: Discouragement will pass. And I decided if anyone could to teach me about discouragement, it was Brother Job. That poor guy lost his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and children—and was left with a surly wife. Eee-gad!

So, I dove—headfirst—into the mire of Job’s whining and ranting. After reading a few chapters , my life didn’t seem so awful! And I learned things everyone should know when they struggle with discouragement:

Know yourself Know your enemy Know your Champion

Know Yourself

The world says look inward to know ourselves, but Job 1 shows us how God knows us. Read the Lord’s description of His servant Job:

“There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job 1:8

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