Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Open a Vein Lately?

Many of us have enjoyed writing workshops led by best-selling author and Christy Award winner Angela Elwell Hunt. She has been featured at various ACFW events for the past 15 years. She is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and a source of inspiration for other Christian authors.

While Angela is best known for her novels based on biblical characters, don’t overlook her 2006 book, The Novelist (Nashville, TN: WestBow Press). It tells the story of a successful novelist of action-adventure books who teaches a course in novel writing at her local community college. She shares practical tips about writing that are basically lifted from Angela’s own workshops. Nothing remarkable about that. But when a student challenges her, the story becomes really interesting—and challenging to each of us.

A young fellow reminds the lecturer of sportswriter Red Smith's statement that writing is easy: Simply sit down at the typewriter and open a vein. “No offense, Ms. Casey,” he says, “but I don’t think you open any veins as you write your books.”

Taken aback, she says, “I don’t think you can judge how much of myself I put into my books.…Years ago I chose to write action novels. I could write something more personal if I wanted to.”

“Could you?”

“Of course.”

“Then why don’t you?”

His question pricks her conscience. She and her husband are drifting apart while her son is drifting into drug addiction, so she writes a book that deals with these problems. She bares the convictions of her soul and the anxieties of her heart through her fictional protagonist.

This prompts me to ask, how much of ourselves do we reveal through the books we write? Not every novel should be autobiographical, but when it deals with our own problems, it’s more likely to express the genuine feelings and motivations of someone in the midst of those problems. That kind of book is well worth writing.

What is your greatest fear? What gives you the deepest pain? Have you written a novel that deals with those issues? While that kind of transparency is intimidating, it's likely to speak most meaningfully to your readers. You may also find that your protagonist deals with your fear, your pain more effectively than you have. Wouldn't that be a marvelous bonus?

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. His most recent book is Hard Times (Warner Press: 2019). He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth.

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