Friday, December 5, 2008

Theme and WWJD

This week’s theme has been theme. In fiction, theme is where we make our claim that we want to prove or disprove, but it isn’t the same as with non-fiction. Going back to the tithing theme of earlier in the week, if I were to write a non-fiction piece in support of tithing, I would probably state my claim then back it up with Bible verses and real life examples. In fiction, we must be much more subtle. We don’t want this:

“I don’t believe in tithing,” he told his pastor.

“Then you’re robbing God,” the old preacher said. “Malachi 3:8 says, Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me! But ye say, ‘Wherein have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings.

It gets the point across and it may even sound like a real life conversation, but it comes across as corny fiction. It doesn’t help that a novel is probably not the best place to talk about tithing, but if we wanted to do so we should craft a story that leads the reader to draw the conclusion that we ought to tithe rather than picking up our Bible and bopping people over the head.

One possibility is to tell the story as an allegory. Many allegories are Fantasy. Instead of God, you might have a king. Instead of church members, you might have citizens of a country. Instead of tithes, you might have taxes. But an allegory doesn’t have to be Fantasy. Instead of the church, you might have the volunteer fire department. Instead of tithes, you might have dues.

You can also address the topic more directly without addressing it bluntly. Charles Sheldon addressed a similar theme in In His Steps and it did quite well, though some may say it is still blunt in a few places. Sheldon handled his theme suggesting that we should live life as Christ would by showing the lives of fictional characters trying to live life by asking what Jesus would do. In His Steps stands as one of the few Christian classics because Sheldon successfully persuaded people to ask the question What Would Jesus Do? and he did so without directly telling the reader to ask that question.