Living Fiction

Fiction really draws me in. The other day I read a book about a demon-killing soccer mom who identified her evil targets by the horrible stench of their breath. The next morning I awoke to find my husband was still asleep, his face turned toward me in the bed. In those fuzzy moments between waking and sleeping, with that story still fresh in my mind, I almost convinced myself that I was dealing with something far more serious than a typical case of morning breath, and I’d better find the nearest Catholic Church so I could stock up on the holy water. (Makes their skin burn, you know.)

I was the same way after reading Sharon Hinck’s The Restorer. I kept wanting to learn how to use a sword. Not those silly skinny things they use in fencing, but a real broadsword I could wield to fight off any evil Rhusicans who happen to find their way through a portal and show up on my doorstep. And Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s Reluctant Burglar left me with an intense desire to visit art museums and check out their security systems to see if I could get away with a priceless artifact or two. (Thank goodness I didn’t actually put my plan into action, or I’d be posting this from a prison cell. I doubt the curator would believe I was just imitating Desiree Jacobs and helping them test the security system.)

My husband has threatened a book ban in our house. He absolutely refuses to let me bring home anything written by Stephen King.

As a writer, this tendency to step into a story presents a daunting thought: what about the people who read my books? When they’ve turned the last page and exited the world I’ve created, what do they take away with them? Are they tempted to dye their hair purple and pierce their noses, like Mayla in Just As I Am? Do they avoid church potlucks after reading Murder by Mushroom, or develop an aversion to barbeque sauce from A Taste of Murder? Maybe they compulsively alphabetize their underwear, like Joan’s grandmother in Stuck in the Middle.

Novels create pictures in peoples’ minds, and those pictures live on long after the story ends. That’s why writing fiction is so much fun – and such an awesome responsibility, especially for Christian writers. Christian novels do double-duty: they entertain readers, and they paint pictures that are full of truth and leave readers with a sense of hope. I take that challenge to heart. If the stories I write are going to have lasting value, I want them to last all the way to eternity.

And now, please excuse me while I go dump holy water into my husband’s aftershave bottle. (Just checkin’.)