The Power of Fiction: The Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove
I love writing fiction. It’s truly incredible. Magnificent, really. What makes fiction unique is the element of “story”. And although non-fiction books may tell stories also, such as with memoirs and documentary accounts, fiction tells stories with a unique power all its own, which we’re going to discuss in this post.
Writing fiction is far better than reading it, because I get to both craft the entire story while experiencing it all at the same time. It’s exhilarating. Yet, as much as I thoroughly enjoy writing fiction, my own pleasure is not my purpose in writing it. Fiction work, unlike any other, allows for authors to use what I call, ‘The iron fist in the velvet glove’ approach. It’s a technique Jesus Christ used frequently in His earthly ministry, and I’d like to share it with you.
The Unique Potential of Fiction
Fiction is potent. It has unlimited potential and power no other genre has – bar none. If you’re wondering why, the answer is simple: People LOVE story. But let’s talk about why. Because the power of fiction has been an enormous part of diverse cultures all over the world, both orally and written, since the beginning of time.
The power of fiction lies in its ability to engage the soul of the reader both in imagination and emotion going to depths nonfiction cannot, because it bypasses analytical rationale. The only limitation to fiction is that of one’s own imagination. And if the author is worthy of their craft, they will take their readers to the outer limit. Fiction is able to launch you over the edge and roll you back in again; sweeping you up and spitting you out. It’s rollicking, and this is what draws people to read books and watch movies. I’ve always likened fiction to a wave that comes in and sweeps you away, and then tosses you back onto shore again, leaving you saturated and breathless with exhilaration. In short, you’ve been somewhere and experienced something very deep that had the potential to consume you.
Jesus understood the power of story, and used it prolifically to reach the masses.
Nonfiction work is processed entirely different than fiction stories. Jesus understood this and frequently used stories, otherwise known as ‘parables’, to teach the people. He knew that certain spiritual truths, and otherwise difficult spiritual concepts could only be fully comprehended in the context of story. Let me give you an example in the parable of the Prodigal Son. In contrast to fiction, nonfiction might say something like this:
If you leave your father and blow all your inheritance on loose living and return home, you can be completely forgiven and accepted, and your restoration will even be celebrated. But your brother will despise you with jealousy.
But the people listening would be like, “Whaaa….?” Who can relate to that? Virtually no one. There’s no power in this truth because there is no context for it until it’s told in a story. It almost sounds ridiculous. But the parable Jesus told has immense power. Why? It delivers the message precisely and with great impact, because it engages the imagination, emotion, and soul of the individual who hears it. People can relate to it. In the context of story what sounded ridiculous makes perfect sense. That is the power of fiction.
Where nonfiction is many times concrete, linear, and flat; fiction is complex, animated, and dramatic.
A novel is merely a long parable. It has layers. And a good story requires a gifted story-teller or it loses its impact. The better a story is told, the deeper the emotional engagement, and the more real the experience becomes for the reader. It has a unique power all its own to reach people with God’s truth who would never otherwise read a Christian book, crack a Bible, or darken a church door. And it does so succinctly, yet with such subtlety, that people don’t often know it’s even happening – until they’ve read the story and realize they are somehow changed.
Fiction plants and waters delicate spiritual seed, and at times even reaps a harvest.
Seed can be planted through fiction work in souls that would never otherwise be willing or able to receive it. This is why I write fiction.
The Iron Fist: A Powerful Impact with Depth of Delivery
My endeavor in writing fiction from the very beginning has been to reach the masses. Yes, it is Christian material, but the plots and characters are inherently gritty, raw, and untamed. No one can relate to superficial, shallow, sugar-coated fluff. It has no power to reach the reader, because it’s not realistic. It’s boring. People close the book and they are not changed. They simply roll their eyes. If you can invest the time it takes to read a story and forget about it a day later – it had no impact. There is no impact in a soft story. It’s weak.
A strong story can deliver difficult subject matter with the appropriate impact which allows the reader to receive the blow in a way that actually entertains and engages, while effecting positive influence and lasting change.
That is the iron fist at work.
The reader is transported. They go places, meet people, and they experience cultures, eras of time, and circumstances they would never otherwise encounter in their own life. It becomes more than mere entertainment. The message becomes an experience. It’s something they can directly relate to, and as a result they are effectively touched by the power of God and His transforming truth – and it happens indirectly, allowing them to receive what they may otherwise reject or oppose if it were offered to them at face value.
The Velvet Glove: A Stewardship of Soul
I get to paint the pictures with my pen that people will ultimately experience. This is where the responsibility God has given me as an author of fiction work comes into play. And it’s an enormous stewardship of soul. The access to someone’s soul is granted when they choose to read fiction, and I want my fiction to bring the same transforming power that my nonfiction and bible studies do – delivering the power of God’s truth in the context of real life in a manner that brings revelatory impact and lasting change. This responsibility as an author is something I take very seriously and with great humility. Because once someone experiences something in their soul, they cannot ‘un-experience’ it. Fiction has the power and potential to go very deep with people. The images they see, the emotions they feel, and the circumstances they experience will stay with them if the story is effective.
The key is delivering a story that people can experience while being entertained and changed at the same time.
People naturally shrink from areas in life they don’t want to deal with. Yet a good story can often make them palatable. People are much more receptive to a fiction work than a nonfiction work that would target a specific area head-on.
Real life is messy, gross, and painful. It’s gritty. Therefore, I have no interest in writing soft stories that are shallow and ultimately powerless. There are hurting people in this world who have encountered atrocity and trauma, who often suffer silently and alone because they question if anyone can truly relate to them or understand their plight. Nonfiction can and does reach this audience in practical ways – if they seek it outright. However, fiction reaches them in those deep private places where they suffer, touching them in ways and to degrees nonfiction won’t and cannot do, because the individual is often unwilling or unable to allow access into that painful area of their lives by any other means.
Fiction makes hard truths palatable for audiences who would otherwise reject them.
That is the velvet glove at work.
My Goal in Writing Fiction
Never underestimate the power of fiction. It can change lives. Fiction has the potential to deliver immense impact with great depth, yet with an entertaining element all it’s own that engages the reader and allows them to experience what they would never otherwise encounter: the power of God and His transforming truth – all in the context of story.
That is my goal with fiction work. When a person can be entertained and engaged through their experience while being challenged and changed, the power and potential of fiction has been fully realized.
No soft stories here. If the grit of real life bothers you, or even offends you (for whatever the reason, be it religious or otherwise), consider yourself fairly warned.
My first novel, which is the first in a trilogy, is targeted for 2018-2020. If you are interested, please follow me for updates. Thank you.
Cheers & Shalom,
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