Wednesday 10 August 2016

Shed Some Light by Elaine Fraser

When we choose to write about what we truly care about, when our values and the character’s values coincide, when our stakes and the story’s stakes coincide, we write with passion, purity, and purpose. Like lightning bolts, we hit our target and shed some light in the process. Julia Cameron. 

What are you writing about at the moment? What are the things that drive you? Are you driven by internal convictions, beliefs and values? Are you driven to write for a particular market and give them what they want?

As this is a Christian writer’s site, I assume that most of us write with a particular audience in mind—an audience who has some connection with the Christian faith or who is perhaps exploring faith.

I found that trying to conform to the expectations of writing for a mainstream Christian audience wasn’t satisfying, but also I didn’t want to write for a purely secular audience without my faith informing my writing.

So, do I conform to expectations of a particular genre or write without acknowledging my beliefs? Is there another way to think about this?

I’m finding that my writing is more and more driven by concern for those on the fringes of Christianity. The books I write have characters on the fringes of the church. They may go to youth group, their parents may attend church, they have a nominal faith or no faith, but they are open to finding out more. They don’t want pat answers that tell them to ‘Pray and it’ll be okay.’

Life is complicated and messy. It may seem simple to those of us who have worked out our belief system and have a sense of our place in the world. However, for those still working it out, the answers are not simple.

In fact, if we are honest, life is not simple for anyone. None of us have it all worked out.

My latest book, Amazing Grace, is about a girl who is trying to figure out if she’s a lesbian or not. This has been one of the most challenging things I’ve written and I’ve tried to write using key principles from my own life, and faith, without imposing them on the characters, or the reader.

Each person has to work out their own faith and I find that the story is in the struggle.

I grapple with issues all the time. I question and study and wrestle with my beliefs and values. I have to work out my own faith. If I write in such a way that depicts characters who seem to accept everything without questioning, then am I giving the reader what they need?

I hope my novels show that faith isn’t black and white. Faith is something robust and challenging and worth working out.

I’ve had conversations with many from the ACW community on this topic and we all have the desire to write with excellence, to inspire others and to honour the story promise that is within us. Our story promise is birthed in faith, hope and love, and revealed in our lives and work.

Writing from a place that reflects our concerns, and also from a place that hits a spot in our audience’s lives and speaks to the concerns in theirs, will hopefully birth a compelling piece of work in all of us.

Writing about sexuality and faith was something I tried to avoid. I didn’t want to write about it. It is too controversial. Too hard.

But, as author Sean Lambert explains,

In the end, I came back to the drive within me to address the pain I see when a person is struggling to work out their sexuality and faith. To address the pain that I see when a parent is walking with a child who is struggling. The story is not about whether a person is gay or straight, believer or non-believer. 

The story is about the struggle in the midst of it all. 

The story is about how we all try and make sense of life and faith. 

That’s why the stakes are high. If we really care about what we write about, if we really care about our audience, we’ll hit our target and shed some light in the process. 


  1. Thanks, Elaine. I love your thoughtful way of writing and your care and concern for those 'on the fringe'. And I also honour the fact that you have stuck with what you feel God wants you to do and to write--a good challenge to all of us.

    1. Thanks, Jo-Anne. I love how we all try and do our best to honour what God is leading us to write about. Then God takes the writing and dues something with it.

  2. Having read and edited Amazing Grace, I have to say I think you've done an excellent job, Elaine. I think you've done a great job of addressing the questions without being judgemental, and pointing out what a difficult process it is for those who are questioning.


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