Hello! It’s Becki’s friend, Annette, again! You may remember from my Pinterest post about writing inspiration, which you can find here.
Today I am reviewing The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke. With the exception of a couple of chapters, this book could easily be called “The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction”. It is a great overall tool for writing that I would recommend to anyone who writes, regardless of whether it’s fiction or not. If you’re interested in Jeff Gerke but just can’t get around the Christian thing, you can also check out his book The First 50 Pages, which covers similar techniques, but not much past the first 50 pages of a novel.
If you’ve never read a book about writing before, I definitely recommend you pick up this one. He covers different techniques in short, couple-of-page chapters that are easy to digest. His techniques are invaluable, and my friends and I (Becki included) are constantly pointing out different literary techniques he describes in other popular books and movies.
One of my favorite points that Jeff Gerke brings up is from his chapter titled “When Do People Change,” in which he guides you through setting up a realistic scenario in which your character can make a drastic change. He says “People do not change until the cost of staying the same is greater than the cost of changing.” This stuck out to me not only because it applies to life in general, but because I don’t think I’ve ever given my characters enough motivation to undergo a realistic change, even though the change happens in my stories.
He also introduces two other techniques that particularly stood out to me: the “dumb-puppet” technique and showing vs. telling. You’ll have to read the book to get all the details, but the “dumb-puppet” trick is a way of using specific characters to your advantage to be able to describe something without it being forced or too overt. For showing vs. telling, Gerke goes over why you should pretty much always show what’s going on in the story instead of explicitly telling it. Instead of saying “Bob is mean,” include a scene in which you show that Bob is mean, by creating situations and dialogue that show it to the reader. This will make your writing much more meaningful and a lot less robotic.
So what about this book addresses Christian fiction specifically. For one, while he usually uses movies as examples for his techniques, he does occasionally throw in a Bible story as reference. He also includes the following chapters that are specific to Christian writers:
- An Accepting Audience of One – A discussion on writing for Him (God) and not for your own personal motivations.
- Examine Your Desire to be Published – Are you doing this for His glory, or yours?
- Understanding Your Calling as a Novelist – Are you writing Christian fiction for those who are already Christian? Or for those who are not yet Christian? He also discusses which of these options are more likely to get published, and why.
- The Deus Ex Machina – He discusses this common (but awful) literary technique from the perspective that you may literally have God intervene in your story.
- A Sermon in the Middle of the Story – How to have a message without explicitly stating the message. Because if you have to explicitly state the message, your story probably isn’t very good. (This is a great idea for any writer. You can read a different author’s perspective on this here.)
- The Bad Boy Gets Saved – The End – Addressing this common Christian fiction cliche.
- Profanity – The Debate – How to include rough, profane characters in your novel without offending those reading your novel.
- Profanity – The Solution – The solution to including hard-edged characters in your novel. I liked his solution, and I feel it is applicable to any writer.
As you can see, most of these can also apply to normal fiction writers. I love that he takes the time, though, to address common Christian fiction tropes. (I also love that he tackles a lot of this book from a publisher/agent/editor point of view, so it can guide writers to creating publishable works.)
This book gets five out of five stars from me, and I hope you’ll pick it up and give it a read! What “how to write” book should I pick up next? Let me know in the comments. 🙂 Or, check out Becki’s posts on other writing books here and here.
* Wait, sorry, apparently NOT this kind of star. >.>