Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The real agenda?


If you ask fiction authors if they have an agenda when they write, many will answer, "I want to tell a good story." If you ask for amplification, they might further explain with something like, "to touch lives" or "to make them think" or "to create a memorable experience" or simply "to entertain".

If you ask Christian fiction authors the same question, the answers will only vary slightly. Words or phrases such as "redemptive" or "glorifying God in story" might be used to illustrate intentions or motives.

The common denominator will probably be a denial they actually possess an agenda other than to write a good story which amounts to saying "to entertain".

My position is, admitted or not, storytellers execute an agenda. This possible factor has produced major criticism of Christian fiction using the accusation to degrade the general genre. However, this same complaint can be used equally for secular fiction where the worldview - whether political, moral, or scientific - permeates the literature. Agendas, when noted and recognized, can be subtle or obvious. Perhaps it's the obvious, in-your-face agendas that either irritate or gratify some readers.

The typical CBA reader is not offended by the obvious when it involves a story emphasizing the spiritual. The atypical Christian reader prefers the uncommon stories which organically include spiritual issues but don't parade them in doctrinal displays with churchy settings, words, and preaching. Although there's an audience for both kinds of stories, CBA primarily features those that are the more obvious.

I'll be honest. I write my fiction with an agenda. Specifically, my agenda is to contrast the world's view of romance, love, and sex to God's view of the same. This requires each to be portrayed honestly. Sometimes that honesty isn't welcomed in the typical CBA readers' world. And that's okay. For me, it's a matter of inserting reality in a truthful way into stories. So, yes, I write with an agenda.

Will you admit you write with an agenda? Or not?

Nicole writes love stories with a passion . . . and a little rebellion. Raw Romantic Redemptive

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sally apokedak said...

Great post, Nicole. We ought to be writing with an agenda. I'm teaching a class this weekend at an SCBWI conference, on weaving worldview into stories so this has been on my mind all week. I think every writer is trying to communicate something when he writes.

Ron Estrada said...

I think the best stories are written with an agenda in mind. I've been a student of Stanley Williams' "The Moral Premise" this year. While he isn't necessarily speaking of morality as we see it, his lesson is that the best movies and books are written with this premise as a guide for every character, sub plot, and story line. In our case, the overriding moral premise may be "Reliance on self leads to spiritual death. Faith in God leads to eternal life." No kidding. That's the overriding moral premise for all Christian fiction (and non-fiction). For a story, we'd a different moral premise. Something like "Resentment and anger lead to self-imprisonment. Forgiveness leads to freedom." When we write with the moral premise in the background, we won't preach it. It will simply be a part of the story's natural flow.

DiAnn Mills said...

I believe stories without a premise/agenda disappoint the reader. The character arc and the goals for each scene prove we writers need a road map. Great post!

Terry Whalin said...

Nicole, what a thought-provoking article. Thank you. Yes novelists write with an agenda and while telling a good story should be the dominate goal, there are good reasons for writing fiction.

Brenda Anderson said...

Absolutely, stories have an agenda. Without one, they'd lack depth, purpose. The problem arises when that agenda smacks the reader over the head, overtaking the story.

Well said, Nicole.

Nicole said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. The honesty of admitting to an agenda actually frees up the writer to construct the story with a truer course (as DiAnn suggested) and a dual purpose (as Brenda and Ron noted). We all want to "entertain" which doesn't have to imply giddy fun, and I think we must respect the objectives of telling stories which is to take an imaginary situation with meaningful (but made up) characters and make it entertaining, purposeful, and believable - even in a fantasy world - without heckling the reader with the obvious.

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

Yep, exactly right, Nicole. Though I think our agendas can change either with the story or with maturity.

Nicole said...

I do too, Normandie, or with the genre.