(Hello! It’s been a good long while since I last dropped in; life has been crazy busy. [News update: Editing Baker Family Adventure #6!] ~ C.R.)
One of the many invaluable lessons taught by Mr. Douglas Bond on the Oxford Creative Writing Masterclass was that the moral lessons we incorporate into our writing should be things that we need, not what we think our audience needs. If we write what we need, the lesson will come over as sincere, not bombastic or contrived.
Weaving a moral into a story should be a subtle thing, and its development will be organic if it’s a situation you’re thinking through at the time of writing. This helps ensure it arises naturally from the story.
So … how do you figure out what truth you personally need to internalize? You could spend a lot of time pondering, reflecting, and of course praying about it (which I’m not at all suggesting is unnecessary!), but today I’d like to suggest a little shortcut that has served me very well over the stories I’ve worked on and just recurred to me yesterday (such that I can’t wait to get back to my project and incorporate it).
Where can you turn for dozens of ideas for a ‘moral’ for your story?
I’ve got to tell you, some of the sermons I’ve heard have blown my mind, got me in the gut, or focused me on a Scripture or area of personal weakness I'd never seen in quite the same way before. Because my writing projects take at least several months to complete, I hear dozens of Sunday sermons or midweek Bible studies in the course of one project, and there’s usually at least one concept that really stands out as one I need to grapple with personally … and sometimes it’s a neat fit into whatever I’m writing.
That prompts me to search out the Scriptures, do research into that topic, and explore its ramifications by projecting it into the story world. It takes time and serious thought, but then … presto! My story has more substance, I’ve learned and grown in the process, and perhaps readers will learn from the moral message without feeling Bible-bashed. Win-win-win.
What about you? Where do you turn for ideas on a message to incorporate into your story? Or do you prefer to write the story and see what message materializes as you go?
Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her website or Facebook page to find out more.