Intersection Column | Writing Truth into Today's Fiction
by Cindy K. Sproles
I'm a mountain girl, born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains of upper east Tennessee. In the mountains, storytelling is a family affair, a tradition—one could even say a competition. It's my heritage and something I value and long to share. Life, as it was in the early years of Appalachia, is fading. Our ancestors' traditions, innovative ways and religious significance are slipping out of history.
When I decided my writing call was of this vast and versatile culture, I knew it not only had to be written in the tone and ring of the people who lived there but also needed to reflect the deep religious convictions of the Appalachian people. The stories of the mountain people are hard and emotional, but one thing that never wains from them is their belief in God. Their lack of education in years past may sometimes have led them to a somewhat convoluted view of religion, but they believe in God Almighty.
My desire and calling are to write solid fiction stories for the Christian market but also for the general market. That is where crafting the story became tedious. How do we write a Christian worldview into a market that turns its nose up at the mention of God, faith or belief in Christ?
I have discovered that truth lies in the honesty of how we tell the story. In writing Appalachian historical, I have more leeway than those writing a current-day tale because religion is, and was, such a deep part of the Appalachian culture. But to reach a market of readers who may not be believers, our stories must carry His truth, and that doesn't always mean a “come-to-Jesus” sermon. Instead, we show it through a character who makes a bad choice but learns from the consequence and sees the value, or from one that chooses to be faithful even in hardship. It happens when we tell a story truthfully and not sugar-coating an ending. The fact is that life sometimes fails to turn out the way we pray, and it's up to us, as good, solid writers, to show how God moves even when the ending is unexpected.
Truth carries various meanings to writers, but learning to become creative in how we bring our faith into the story means letting go of what was named “Bible-thumping” ways and ushering in a new way of reaching those who are resistant. It means allowing a reader to experience faith in the way we, as Christians, truthfully experience God. Sometimes we find Him in a miracle or an answered prayer, but other times we learn and know Him deeper through the rough patches that don't pan out the way we anticipated.
When I pen an Appalachian story, I want the reader to experience truth as the character experiences it. They should be able to feel the emotion of hardship and the joy of things that work out to their advantage. See the decisions and struggle with how to make those decisions, then reap the reward or suffer the consequence. Readers should be able to see that a character comes out on the other side of hardship because they have faith or have learned faith—even if the ending is not picture-perfect. They need to see the peace we experience during trials. Our Christian lives are imperfect, yet we live in the truth of Christ.
When readers step into my world of Appalachian historical, they will find gritty, gut-wrenching situations and decisions. Hopefully, they will see the underlying truth that gently directs the character to recognize their faith or lack thereof. Readers will find honest dialogue and moments where they may grow angry at God and ask those questions we have all experienced when things get hard—Why, God, why? They find a resolution and see the lessons they were destined to learn, even if the situation doesn't appear as expected.
I pray that truth, love and the peace of Christ will filter through the character and fill the reader so that whether they are a Christian market reader or a general market reader, the door is opened for their heart to be renewed.
Come to the mountains. I invite you into a world of the past, filled with unique situations and hardships. Here you can stand on the summit, stretch out your arms and let your fingertips scrape the floor of heaven as the clouds pass.
About the Author
Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker and conference teacher. She is a freelance editor and coach/mentor with Writing Right Author Mentoring Services. Cindy directs the Asheville Christian Writers Conference and is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. You can find Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.
About the Book
When Minerva Jane Jenkins was just 14 years old, she married a man who moved her to the mountains. He carried with him a small box, which he told her was filled with gold. And when he died 50 years later, he made her promise to keep his secret. Now 94, Minerva is visited by a reporter who wants to know more of her story. But the truth of what's really buried in the box may be hidden even from her.
Did You Know?
While Adam was tasked with naming the animals, Scripture points out that God named the stars. The constellations that form the zodiac rotate with the earth around the sun on what is called the ecliptic plane. God wrote His redemptive story across the sky: beginning with Virgo, representing the virgin birth; followed by Libra, the scales of justice; Scorpio, the sting of the serpent on the heel of Jesus; and concluding with Leo, Jesus as the Lion of Judah.
Zodiac comes from the Greek word zodiakous meaning circle. The root word comes from zoad meaning way, steps or path. At the core, the zodiac band or circle is the way the sun appears to travel in the sky.
The Hebrew calendar has several firsts of the year, one of which is called the head of the year and corresponds with Rosh Hashanah around September/October. These months coincide with Virgo and represent the beginning of God’s story in the sky.
According to Ken Fleming, the star announcing the birth of Jesus was made up of Jupiter, also known as the king planet and Regulus, a star also called the king star, converging together.
Only our incredible God, who is always calling us to look up to Him, would circle the “Son” with the “Way,” inscribing, “I love you” across the inky sky.
-Michele McCarthy, Across the Sky
Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore
“I love to visit and shop in bookstores! In fact, if I could, I would place a cot in one and just live there and be able to see and touch and read all the amazing books that are there!”
-Lane P. Jordan, Evangeline