Writers of contemporary fiction often find themselves in a bit of confusion. Their characters become so familiar that they’re tempted to put them on the prayer chain at church or use them as an example to illustrate a point at Bible Study.
A few years ago, I remember walking in on a discussion between my sister-in-law and her mother. Their conversation jumped rather quickly from one difficult scenario to another, often disagreeing on the outcome. Though the names mentioned were unfamiliar to me, their situations moved me with sympathy and concern.
Moments before I embarrassed myself by offering prayer support for these poor distraught individuals, I realized they were discussing fictitious characters from an afternoon soap opera. How could they become so involved with people who didn’t even exist?
Now that I’m writing contemporary fiction, I’m beginning to understand. If the characters are well defined and believable, they become real people who represent real life situations. The writer wants the reader to not only identify with the character, but to sympathize with his failures, ache over his disappointments and love who he loves.
When my friend, Kaycee, was editing my book, By the Sea, she became so frustrated with my female protagonist, Sarah, that she felt like shaking her. I laughed at her emotional response, but also experienced a feeling of satisfaction that my Sarah could kindle that kind of reaction from my friend.
Although my characters are fictitious, their circumstances are based on true life situations that could occur within the lives of families anywhere–across town or even next door. They’re searching for answers to their problems, fulfillment of their dreams and hope for their future. Unlike those gracing the dramas of daytime television, my characters find their answers based on the Biblical truths woven throughout my stories. If the reader identifies with one of these true-to-life individuals and follows their example, I will have succeeded in writing something not only very real, but of eternal value.
Perhaps you’re friends with someone who writes contemporary fiction. Be patient with us as we walk through the trials, failures and triumphs of our characters. They’ve been with us so long, they feel as if they’re family. If we happen to request prayer for one of them, give us an understanding smile and ask God to provide the wisdom for us to write His answer into their difficult situations. Soon you may be holding a “best seller.”